To me, this movie is perfection.
In truth, there is barely enough story here to make a film.
It's funny, it's tense, it features two great performances from two actors and the director expertly creates a web of odd tension where you actually don't know what is happening for the majority of the run time.
It's the kind of movie you'll want to see a second time with someone who hasn't seen it yet, to remember what it was like to watch it for the first time.
I was delighted to get Dog Day Afternoon as a Christmas gift. I still watch DVDs and thank goodness for them. Other than TCM, there is only a slim chance of viewing this movie on television.
Finally getting to see the movie and its star Al Pacino was a bigger treat than I expected. Watching this robbery/hostage drama made me feel like I was right there minute by minute as the story unfolded. Sidney Lumet, a director of so many great movies set in New York, knew the territory.
The movie is set in Brooklyn in 1972 and it captures the squalor and the mood of the working class neighbourhood. At the time, New York was dealing with crime, bankruptcy, racial strife and the loss of faith in government. Pacino, playing Sonny, is an unemployed Italian-American in a failing marriage. Part of the story is an alliance he builds with neighbours who cheer for him as he is surrounded by police, FBI, and media reporters.
John Cazale plays the buddy Sal and Charles Durning is the seasoned police chief caught in a highly charged environment between the police and a crowd of rabble rousers cheering on the hostage takers. The full cast is great.
Glad I finally saw this movie, which I can now add to the many other great movies I've seen from the 1970's. Highly recommend.
(Flash Review)This film captures Pacino in his fiery youth and range as an actor. He portrays a kind-hearted bank robber needing money to give to his male partner for an operation. This film is a comedy of errors and poor decisions. Nothing goes right even though Pacino has put some planning into this. Awash in the middle of the grimy and drab 1970's styles as well as the hot day in the city, this adds to the awkwardness of the robbery plan. Pacino's acting is emotional and rich and the story unfolds with some solid surprises. A must for Pacino fans.
Even before the midpoint I was heading to IMDb for a 10 on 10 rating. Tons of bank robbery movies out there and this is just mind-blowing. Unique, funny, natural (thanks to the casting and performance) and awesome till the end. I could not get over Cazale's dialogue of not wanting to have a smoke. He may have had cancer during that time. He died three years later of lung cancer. Great performance by him too.I can't thank Sidney Lumet and the writer enough for the experience I had gone through while watching this masterpiece. Fact indeed is incredibly stranger than fiction. I am watching for the first time and could not seriously believe the movie was made in 70s. I will watch again to enjoy, and learn. In our language, we call it "Otha, maasu!"
I've seen it said frequently about this film that it is a commentary on the nature of media and sensationalism, and how those things can warp the perception of certain events and people. This is a fair analysis, but what I think is perhaps more significant to me, though perhaps not as clever, is that this film is a careful study of how different people react to a crisis. Of course, these things are not mutually exclusive. The media certainly acts as a major force of change both in the nature of the story and in the characters. I think though, that the idea that this film is just about how the media affects people is insufficient. How then is the viewer meant to understand the scenes which altogether lack any media presence? In the quieter moments of this film, when the cameras have gone away and the crowd is silent, the heart of this film reveals itself. It is about people reacting to crisis. Not just the crisis of a robbery gone wrong, but personal crisis. What drives characters in the film is not how they think the cameras will perceive them (not saying that part is not also essential in appreciating this film). The protagonist, masterfully performed by Al Pacino, is not motivated by it. He's motivated by the tumultuous nature of his life which has led him to this point, and the desperation it has instilled in him. The police too, are not driven by cameras and crowds, they simply measure their actions differently. Media changes the dynamics, but it doesn't change reality. The reality is that people are brought together by a tense situation and are defined by how they compose themselves when the pressure's on. The best example of this theme in action within the characters is in the transition of police leadership of the stand-off from Moretti to Sheldon. I found watching this film that when Sheldon confronts Sonny for the first time, I could tell it was the beginning of the end. It isn't just that Sheldon represents a more formidable branch of law enforcement, but that he conducts himself in a more powerful way. He's cool and collected. Up to this point in the film you sort of get the sense that Sonny and Morreti are approaching the situation with pretty similar attitudes. They're both struggling to maintain their composure and they're seemingly blindsided by the fiasco that is the hostage situation. Sheldon is not blindsided. They're isn't a trace of doubt or fear in him. He has it all under control, which means that Sonny has lost all power. Watching his interactions with Sheldon I just knew that it was already over. How could a mere victim of circumstance best what is obviously a master of fate and will? The direction of this film is also demonstrative of this theme. You might notice, especially if you've seen a Lumet film before, that the use of music in this film is very limited. This strikes me as being very deliberate both stylistically and dramatically. After all, wouldn't it make more sense to play up the sensational nature of the story by adding a melodramatic score to punctuate every little interaction? That would be very meta. What this selective choice of music suggests, to me at least, is that reality is distinct from the media circus. It surrounds the characters, it influences their behavior to a certain extent, but ultimately it isn't the reality they occupy. They are still trapped in their circumstances, and no amount of cheering, jeering, or filming can change that. All that's left for them is to decide how to handle their crises. That also explains the nature of the cinematography, which also seems a bit restrictive at times. There's little movement and the often the camera is sort of just set at eye level. Nothing too crazy. The effect of this is that you find yourself, as the viewer, just as trapped as the characters you're observing. You don't get to have a dozen montages and swoop over the roof as the police plot their infiltration because that isn't something any of the characters can do. This film respects the barrier between crisis and coverage. It endeavors to thrust its characters into a disaster and ask you to consider how they're reacting. The commentary it makes on the media is valid, and should be considered carefully, but in doing so don't forget what's happening when the cameras are away.