... and a half. Imagine it's 1975, you're in the cinema and you see a film like this! It must have been quite a punch. It still is! Lumet was a grandmaster who resisted the stupidity and artificiality of all the Airport and Earthquake cinematic nightmares of the time. Special credits to the crowd and the pizza boy!
Sonny's reference to the Attica Prison Riot of 1971 is a critical turning point where the catalyst of media can create a political melting pot to a hostage scene. Lumet's art of characterisation was to add contextual variables to coax the spectator to root for the unsympathetic protagonist; Sonny and Sal's plight is humanised to such a compelling degree, that it is hard not to perceive the criminals as victims...
"Attica! Attica!" ................. shouted Pacino when he got surrounded by the police while his was taking hostages. That was a great inspiration because at that moment he turned his failed bank robbery into a political protest with reference to the Attica events. All in a sudden he got the TV and the press on his side.
A long time ago I used to have debates with people about who was better, Pacino or De Niro. As time went on, and Pacino decided to chew scenery, while De Niro stayed somewhat respectable. It was embarrassing for me having to defend things like 'Scent of a Woman'. Of course De Niro has lately been floundering along, but it's too late. Now I just say "John Cazale was an amazing actor." He's the one to watch here.
A masterpiece of storytelling. Lumet's no-frills style still allows for subtle variety. Perfectly edited and paced, it simultaneously finds humor, keeps it human, and avoids sentimentality. The acting is perfect. Pacino is totally relatable, wildly kinetic, but always in control. No other actor can work up to such histrionics and remain so grounded. Cazale, Durning, Sarandon, and the bit players are all terrific.
Al Pacino is running the freak show here between his inner self and his social life, the FBI and the TV broadcast. Sometimes a tremendous dark comedy written almost to perfection and other times just fascinating the depth of everyone's character. I felt they were live performers given a script and improvising the all time. Still, Sonny is lost (like Sal going to Wyoming) and the movie sometimes too.