It’s time for another guest post in the Writer Loves…. series exploring the reasons why we love our favourite films. This entry comes courtesy of Chetan Jina at Too Much To Watch and focuses on one of his favourite movies, Heat.

This 1995 crime drama written and directed by Michael Mann currently sits at number 122 in IMDB’s top 250 films.

Read on as Chetan highlights strong characters and visceral action as the key to Heat’s success.

Chetan from Too Much To Watch Discusses Heat (1995)

From the mid 90’s comes the ultimate tale of cops and robbers. I’m in love with everything about this film – director, cast, performances, story, script, score, and cinematography. Everything is top notch.

Al Pacino plays super cop Lt. Vincent Hanna, part of the L.A. Robbery Homicide division. He finds a formidable foe in Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley, a career criminal. The two cross paths when McCauley’s team unknowingly make a mistake on a heist. This leads Hanna and his team of detectives on a trail to find and stop McCauley.

We’re first introduced to McCauley and his team as they prepare and execute an armoured car heist. There is little dialogue here, but you’re immediately entranced with what is taking place. Here you can see the masterful dedication this team has to getting the job done right and without incident to them. They’re complete professionals.

McCauley operates by this code – never become attached to anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in 30 seconds, especially when you feel the heat is on your tail. This code means McCauley has been alone for most of his life. Hanna, although married, is actually married to his job. He’s working on his third divorce. He is completely dedicated to catching the bad guys. The guy has seen some messed up shit in his career, and it haunts him.

It is impossible to imagine any other two actors playing the key leads. Al Pacino is just so awesome as Hanna. The outrageous cop, that will say what he is thinking, and do what he says he will do. De Niro is superb as McCauley. Quiet, yet strong, intelligent and vicious, but not without humanity. These two actors have pretty much not done anything as great as these roles since then.

© 1995 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

© 1995 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

One of the things I love about this film is how engaging each character is, in what is a pretty simple story. McCauley is the bad guy, and Hanna is the good guy, but as the story flows along you can see how similar they really are – both completely passionate about their work, but also to the detriment of their personal lives. As is referenced to later in the film, they’re essentially two sides of the same coin. The supporting cast is excellent – Val Kilmer in one of his finest roles. Natalie Portman, in one of her first outings, just embodies the role of an angst ridden young girl. The cast list really is impressive here.

There are two scenes this film is most famous for: The cafe scene where these two great actors appear on screen together for the first time ever, and the ultimate street gunfight. The cafe conversation these two characters have is just perfection. Just a general conversation about themselves and this path they’re on against each other. There is this respect they have for each other, but ultimately, one of them has to lose. Then, there is the gunfight. What a visceral experience it is. Tense, exciting, and thrillingly realistic in its disastrous outcome. If you want to know what a cop car turned into swiss cheese would look like, then watch this.

“If you want to know what a cop car turned into swiss cheese would look like, then watch this”

Writer and Director Michael Mann made his name with this film. I’ve seen the majority of his filmography, most of which are excellent, but this would be the pick of the bunch for me. At 170 mins, this is epic territory we’re in here people. It is in no way a lazy film, or a struggle to get through. If anything, you’re left wanting more. One of the simple pleasures of his films is the way he shoots nighttime scenery. It is almost impossible for me to describe how cool it is. Once you’ve seen it in one or two of his films, it’s instantly recognisable. He’s also not afraid to stick the camera in the actors face. It definitely helps to enhance the immediacy of the drama, and even the action.

© 1995 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

© 1995 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The score by Elliot Goldenthal is one I have listened to many times. It is perfecto mundo for this film, and just sets the tone exquisitely whenever used. I especially like Moby’s ‘New Dawn Fades’. This is used in a great sequence where Hanna is racing through traffic to catch McCauley – the perfect freeway driving song. You know, when you’re just passing traffic as if every other car was standing still.

Overall, this really is a masterpiece of cinema – the battle of a supercop and a supervillain. Both dedicated to their craft and on a collision course. Mann has done some fine work since this, and before, but this is a true classic that he has not surpassed. I love this film, and I hope you do too.

A big thank you to Chetan for sharing this one with us. You can check out Chetan’s blog Too Much To Watch here

If you would like to contribute a post to this series and share some of the reasons you love your favourite film, please take a look at my launch post here and get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

You can find all of the posts in this series here. As this series grows I hope it will work as an homage to everything the blogging community loves about cinema.

Images: © 1995 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved