Scene of the Week: Heat - Diner Scene
It's that time again, Scene of the Week, with the choice today being one of the most iconic moments in cinema’s history, the diner scene within the timeless classic Heat. Heat is film which has made its mark on cinema’s history, as being one of the best movies ever made. Heat stars Al Pacino, who plays Vincent Hanna, a detective far too dedicated to his profession, which causes his personal life to become a bit of a disaster, creating this incredible dynamic as he is torn between saving his family and hunting down one of the hardest cases of his career, stopping a highly skilled criminal called Neil McCauley, played by Robert DeNiro. Heat has inspired so many films we watch today, with a favourite of mine being one of them - The Dark Knight.
The scene I am reviewing today has some of the best acting you will ever see, performed by two acting jugganauts, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, as they come face-to-face for the first time in a traditional american diner. McCauley invites Hanna for a meeting, to try and get to grips with who it is that he is dealing with, and out of respect, Hanna accepts. At this point Hanna has been hunting McCauley for some time now, adding to the tension within this scene. As they sit facing each other, in this grotty diner, you can already feel the heat between them. The conversation between the pair starts very civilised, as they get to know each other. Hanna tells McCauley how messed up his life is, and McCauley explains to Hanna how he rarely gets attached to anything, as if he “feels the heat round the corner” he cannot be attached to anything he is unable to drop in “30 seconds flat”. This, straight away, gives us a brilliant insight on both of our characters, that they are extremely similar, that both are dedicated to their causes, even if both causes are on the opposite sides of the table, literally and metaphorically. As they continue getting to know each other, it comes very apparent that there is a huge amount of respect between both of these characters, but that respect will never stop these professionals from doing what they do best. “You know, we're sitting here you and I like a couple of regular fellas.” Hanna explains. “You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. Now that we've been face-to-face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But, I tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow...brother...you are going down.” This is a brilliant piece of dialogue, delivered in a way only Pacino is capable of doing so, which, in turn, sums up our detective perfectly. Not only does it show the audience Hanna has a new found respect for McCauley, he also lets nothing get in his way from doing what he does best, but nor does McCauley, as he replies “There's a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Because no matter what...you won't get in my way. We've been face-to-face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.” a great counter to Hanna’s almost threat, instantly cementing this dynamic between them that carries through the rest of the film.
What makes this scene so great is that on the face of it it’s very simple, but there is so much depth to it. On first look, it is just a couple of guys in a diner having a chat, with no real musical score behind it, but if you really watch this scene you can see the message it is trying to portray. It's all about opposites and how they work together. This is shown in how they are sat opposite each other across the table and the camera captures this side-on-view. Even everything in the dialogue is about opposites, Hanna talks about his family and McCauley talks about his lack of it. Hanna talks about a dream he has where he is surrounded by death, whereas McCauley talks about a reoccuring dream he has where he is the one dying. The opposites even goes down to their clothing, McCauley wearing a white shirt, with Hanna in black. And as mentioned above, Hanna tells McCauley he will happily take his life if it means saving innocents, but McCauley confirms he would take Hanna’s life to save his own. It is pure genius.
As mentioned, there isn’t really a music score in this scene. There is a slight bit of music that creeps in toward the end, but it is very faint. I do think this is perfect for the scene though, as it keeps the rawness of the moment.
Michael Mann, the director, is a true visionary, and Heat is certainly his best work. He managed to pull together two of the best actors at the time, and gave them a worthy script and a moment which captured their talents perfectly.