Heat: a professional robber and homicide detective go head to head in a battle of wits, guns and getting the job done. The film is laden with superb moments & set-pieces: action, suspense and climaxes, which means that the film is gripping, explosive and unpredictable for the most part. You couldn’t hand-pick a greater cast of actors at their peak – right down to the extras (including Henry Rollin’s neck!!). Both leads are fantastic, equally volatile yet in-control men, despite the contrast between Pacino’s shouting / flailing and De Niro’s calm / focused anti-hero. Both portrayals are physical, entertaining, and career-tipping performances, so much so that by the end, you don’t really want either to snuff it. The biggest problem is that, by wanting to keep the film believable and give it more clout, almost every character gets some back-story, which means that the film spends some time opening lots of minor tangents, many of which are never resolved or revisited – or related to the plot. There’s no question about it, Heat is an outstanding film, and I’d love to give it 9, or 10, but I’d have been much happier watching a three-hour film focused almost exclusively on the two central performances, than have them share the runtime with a multitude of smaller, less relevant characters.
“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
Mission Impossible: when his mission in Prague goes FUBAR Ethan Hunt must prove his innocence and figure out who the real traitor is without the help of the CIA/IMF. This contains pretty much everything that’s cool about spying & espionage, from the high-tech gadgets (hacking/security) to the low-brow survival tricks (cracked light bulb on floor). Brian De Palma is on top form; the complex story is well told, and the moments of drama/tension are just perfect – the NOC list Langley break-in in particular is a beautiful, yet almost unwatchable, set piece – more generally, the film is like a masterclass in ambiance and tension. The director slaps a heavy streak of throwback Noir style: camera angles, soft focus, clothes, hats, music overcoats – not to mention the mystery story. Being a 90s film some of the technology is horrifically outdated, e-mail in particular is laugh-out-loud bad. While Ethan Hunt is no James Bond, the team behind Mission impossible did a great job of lifting from the Bond Blueprint and re-inventing a modern super-spy.
24 – Season 7: Another action packed day of Jack Bauer disobeying orders to follow up the only lead, sound familiar? Cue the standard horde of real-time moles, threats, miracle cures, u-turns and law breaking in a different order. Like anything that goes on for this long the bar’s been pushed so high to keep it ‘fresh’ and ‘shocking’, that things like quadruple agents and people coming back from the dead make day 7 hit a new high on my ridiculous-o-meter. Bauer, Almeda and Voight are the only decent actors with most of the others struggling to convince – guess that happens when you kill off the talent every season. Unlike previous days the moral compass keeps raising its head; what’s the right thing? How many lives have to be endangered before torture is allowed? Let’s pretend Jack actually has a conscience, etc. Another thing that kept being repeated was every single detail relevant to the plot – they must think the average viewer’s pretty damn stupid. The writer’s strike also made it feel like two mini-seasons. Can’t believe they’re churning out another season… nothing new here.