Heat

A film that will entertain while at the same time make you think

What it’s about

Lieutenant Hanna, a detective played by Al Pacino, decides to catch a highly intelligent seasonal criminal, played by Robert De Niro, who has vowed to pull off one last robbery before he retires for good.

What you will learn from watching it

​Heat is based on the true story of Neil McCauley and Detective Chuck Adamson from back in 1964, McCauley was a calculating criminal and was an ex-inmate of Alcatraz, Detective Chuck Adamson was the man who caught him.

What makes this film perhaps a really interesting proposition is that though poetic licence has been used to make the story more dramatic, there is a lot of truth in the account of what happened, which is rare for a Hollywood film.

For example, in the film Al Pacino who plays Chuck Adamson and Robert De Niro who plays McCauley, meet one-time for a coffee. This actually happened. The next time they meet in the film guns are drawn. This also is true, in real life the next time they met guns were drawn.

Obviously also the film is set in the 90s rather than the 60s, but ignoring that by Hollywood standards this is a fairly decent account of what went down. In terms of what in my view you can learn from watching this film, besides an interesting account of a true crime story, is the power of the bad guy.

To explain, what makes this film interesting is the fact that no person can watch it and not find themselves rooting for the bad guy. You will really want Robert De Niro’s character to get away with it and escape to his new life with his girl.

Based on what he has done, you should not want this to happen, you know you should not want this to happen, there are literally no grounds to justify his actions, and yet you most definitely do want this to happen.

The way I see this film is a perfect example of how bad guys no matter how bad they are when shown and seen in a certain light can feel like the good guys, and because of that you find yourself rooting for them.

In a way it is like the famous saying, bad guys don’t see themselves as bad guys, they see themselves as good guys, which is why at times they can seem so attractive. For example, Al Capone genuinely saw himself as a good guy, he thought he was helping people to have a good time and because of it was working in the interests of the people.

He was not a good guy, selling the alcohol illegally was one thing, but all the killing and the evil crimes he committed were another entirely. But if he told his story the way he wanted to tell it, so from his perspective, no doubt he would argue that every crime he committed was in the interests of the greater good and that he really was a good guy and no doubt he would be able to sell his argument with such strength that you might actually believe him, which at the time a lot of people did.

It is so easy to get taken in by a bad guy, in my view this film shows you just how easy and that for me makes it a great watch. The fact it is such a great film is the cherry on the cake.

Is the story any good

There are a number of angles going on in this film, on the one hand you have the breakdown of Al Pacino’s relationship with his wife, on the other hand you have Robert De Niro’s character realising he does not want to live a life alone, and so is looking for love.

Added to the cat and mouse game that De Niro and Pacino play, it has to be said this film makes for a highly compelling watch but the character that you end up rooting for is without question like said De Niro.

And that is why this is such a good story, because like said you should not be rooting for him. Yet the way the story is told makes you root for him while at the same time making you feel like you shouldn’t be rooting for him.

Final words

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, even a young Natalie Portman, the roll call in this film to say the least is filled with some great actors. And for good reason, this is a brilliant film. It should be said that if you don’t like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven more by the actors rather than the effects team, then you will probably find this film boring, but if you do like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven by the actors rather than special effects, then you’ll most probably like this film, maybe even love it.

For that reason from me this film gets a big thumbs up.

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Genre: crime, drama, thriller

Year: 1995

Runtime: 172 minutes

The Ghost Writer

A solid thriller with a great twist

What it’s about

When a successful ghostwriter agrees to finish the memoirs of a former prime minister after the previous writer suspiciously dies, his publisher assures him it’s the chance of a lifetime. Instead, he begins to uncover evidence that suggests his late predecessor knew a dark secret and may have been murdered to prevent it from coming to light.

My thoughts

This feels a very Roman Polanski -type film, which is inevitable as he directed it, but at the same time it is a very hit and miss sort of film. Ewan McGregor puts in a solid performance as the lead, the other big star name Pierce Brosnan also puts in a solid albeit reality fleeting performance.

And it is indisputable that there is much suspense and mystery in this film, also you definitely get the feeling that there is something sinister going on, and that McGregor’s character has well and truly found himself in the middle of it.

At the same time it is hard to avoid the fact that this feels like a bit of a dig at Tony Blair’s premiership and his close relationship with the US. In fact my first thought upon watching it was that this is a conspiracy film about Tony Blair. It is not but the parallels in the accusations directed at Pierce Brosnan’s Prime Minister and Tony Blair over his relationship with the US is pretty much impossible to miss.

But at the same time this is used to good effect with McGregor’s ghost writer coming to the conclusion that Adam Lang is not who he appears to be, and in fact may have some very troubling links to the CIA. This is of course where we step away from the parallels to Tony Blair and enter into the realms of fantasy, and it is when the film steps away from these apparent Tony Blair parallels that it really comes to life.

Obviously I won’t give away any spoilers but this is a very well done thriller, with McGregor’s character increasingly feeling in grave jeopardy as the film progresses.

The only real letdown is the ending, there is a brilliant twist which is a real aha moment, but that twist in a way is spoilt by what comes after. A little spoiler alert here so be warned, but McGregor’s character ends up getting killed but the lead up to how he gets killed and the way he gets killed just kind of feels unbefitting of how good the story was to this point.

It is not the fact that he dies that is the problem it is the way it happens, the filmmaking is clever but just feels totally illogical for the character. Really you just can’t help but be left feeling that the film deserved a better put together ending, or rather it feels like that the writers thought okay now we’ve revealed the big twist let’s just end things quick.

But I take nothing away from this film, it is an entertaining thriller and as the film progresses you really do feel that McGregor’s character is increasingly in grave jeopardy. For that reason all in all from me it gets a thumbs up.

​​Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski

Genre: thriller, drama, mystery

Year: 2010

​Runtime: 130 minutes