BFI Classics: Heat

Author: Nick James

Real film buffs out there will be familiar with the magazine that Nick James is editor for (Sight and Sound), so the style and depth of the analysis won’t come as a surprise to them. Heat was covered in some depth in that magazine at the time it was coming out in theatres. Little details like DeNiro’s criminal, McCauley, putting his gun down at the end of his day compared with Pacino’s cop, Hanna, picking his up at the start of his are the types of things that James like’s to observe in Michael Mann’s work.

This books opens with an analysis of the opening heist and then in the following chapter breaks down the work of Michael Mann the director before reverting back to the film for the continued look at the film (with constant references to Mann’s previous work – as well as other works de cinema). Of course avid Heat fans will be looking for a section around the one to one both the lead players have – and the book does deliver this, but never forgets that heat along about the hunt between two men, is actually quite a sophisticated ensemble drama.

Leaving no stone unturned there is also an appendix on the original version LA Takedown. James is probably a very busy man himself with the publications he works on (Sight and Sound being the more prevalent) but I hope he returns to the BFI series soon on another title as this is an example of how the series really shines. The book came out less than a decade after the film which is testament to the richness of the film, but also the adeptness of the research and writing – and proof that now all classics have to be of a grand age before we can truly look back and understand them.

This book is no different; the attention to detail shows his academic brilliance as a critic and viewing of the medium. You can file this one under indispensable for the film.

Steven Hurst

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