THE INSIDER (1999)

THE INSIDER (1999) dir. Michael Mann. Based on the true story of tobacco industry insider Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) who does an interview with TV program 60 Minutes, exposing illegality within the company. An incredible epic film, about an essentially unlikable character. One of Russell Crowe’s best performances, as the hard drinking scientist with anger issues who loves his kids. Al Pacino as the 60 Minutes producer is a delight, I enjoyed how he is calm and professional for almost the entire movie, and when he loses his temper, it’s glorious. I loved Al Pacino’s beach house. The deposition scene is one of the most satisfying courthouse moments in cinema. Possibly the best soundtracks to a thriller ever, combining operatic vocals, classical guitar, and a perfectly placed Massive Attack track. Watching again this time, I was very impressed by the use of repetition of the Wigand interview tapes. The taping of the interview is not the climax of the film, we see it multiple times from different angles: interviewer, interviewee, editor, producer, a finally audience, shown without words, in an airport lounge. Masterpiece.

THE KEEP (1983)

dir. Michael Mann. A true cult movie. Based on a book of the same name, it’s about Nazi soldiers in Romania during WW2, uncovering an ancient evil, and turning to a Jewish professor for help. Michael Mann’s second feature, after the superior THIEF (1981), starring James Caan. Both films have wonderful atmospheric soundtracks from band Tangerine Dream. Sadly, the VFX artist Wally Veevers died before the film was completed, so Mann finished the VFX himself, and they have not aged well. Mann was also forced to simplify the ending, and cut the film running time in half. Probably due to these setbacks, the film was never released in HD or Blu-Ray, so the only edition available is a low quality VOD or DVD release. The very low quality video, combined with the almost incomplete production make it a hard film to recommend. That said, there are some wonderful performances by Ian McKellen as the Jewish professor, Gabriel Byrne as the slick haired S.S. Commander, and Jürgen Prochnow (DAS BOOT (1981)), as the Wehrmacht captain. Fans of MANDY (2018), will notice more than one inspiration in THE KEEP.

HEAT (1995)

dir. Michael Mann. Rewatched HEAT. Natalie Portman is so talented, even at fourteen. I love watching her interact with Pacino. “I gotcha baby. Here’s your momma!”

THIEF (1981)

dir. Michael Mann. Making my way back through his catalogue. I now see the connections to HEAT (1995) more closely, thanks @phil_jablon. I forgot how great James Caan is, just so natural and comfortable. Seeing him in this makes me want to re-watch MISERY (1990) and THE GAMBLER (1974) again. Once again phone booths date the movie, but the heist is still brilliant. HEAT fans must watch this film.

HEAT (1995)

dir. Michael Mann. Infinitely re-watchable, cold and gripping even 25 years later. One of the first “action” films I saw growing up. The female cast members stood out this time, Ashley Judd on the balcony is terrific. The over-the-top dialogue is still enjoyable. “For me the action is the juice”.