Thief (M. Mann, 1981)

Thief (Michael Mann, 1981)

It’s official – Michael Mann knows how to shoot night time. No one gets more use out of lighting already incorporated in the sets than this man. Early in the film there is a scene where James Caan’s character walks along a quiet harbor with the city in the background as the sun rises where the silence and the sunrise perfectly match the calm tone at this point of the film. Then, throughout, Mann uses vehicle headlights, city building lights, neon sign lights, and even lights strung up at a used car lot to give this film a beautiful and calming look despite the not-so-calm happenings.

Majority of the film centers around the theft plot. A self-employed thief posing as a used car salesman agrees to do a job for an outside employer to get on the fast track to a normal life with a wife and kids. We see him plan and execute the theft, while running into a few snags here and there, yes. But we also see him lead his life outside of his profession. He is close to people, whether it be his girlfriend/wife, his mentor, or his friend/partner. The moments he shares with these people are what drive the film, and what make the film’s perilous penultimate scene feel so tense. Mann continues to impress.  9.75/10

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4 Responses to “Thief (M. Mann, 1981)”

  1. Excellent film. Have watched it a few times over the years…..and this review just made me want to give it a spin again this evening. Really great cinematography……and Willie too!

    • chrisfilm Says:

      Yeah, Mann’s cinematography is so good, and with several different DOPs as well. I thought Willie Nelson would have a bigger part, but he did pretty good with the little screen time he had.

  2. I saw this after I watched “Public Enemies,” and I think this was definitely a more sound tale about a bank robber. The Caan character is beautifully defined, and the actual heist sequence is a real knockout.

    • chrisfilm Says:

      Yeah, this is much better than Public Enemies. If PE would have focused more on Dillinger’s personal life like Thief did, I think I would have liked it more.

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