The true nature of the beast

A bit of dialogue that rings in my head a lot, from the movie Crimson Tide:

Ramsey: At the Naval War College it was metallurgy and nuclear reactors, not Nineteenth Century philosophy. “War is a continuation of politics by other means.” Von Clausewitz.
Hunter: I think, sir, that what he was actually trying to say was a little more —
Ramsey: Complicated? [Men laughing]
Hunter: Yes, the purpose of war is to serve a political end, but the true nature of war is to serve itself.
Ramsey: [Laughing] I’m very impressed. In other words, the sailor most likely to win the war is the one most willing to part company with the politicians and ignore everything except the destruction of the enemy. You’d agree with that?
Hunter: I’d agree that, um, that’s what Clausewitz was trying to say.
Ramsey: But you wouldn’t agree with it?
Hunter: No, sir, I do not. No, I just think that in the nuclear world the true enemy can’t be destroyed.
Ramsey: [Chuckling, tapping glass] Attention on deck. Von Clausewitz will now tell us exactly who the real enemy is. [Laughing] Von? [Men laughing]
Hunter: In my humble opinion… in the nuclear world… the true enemy is war itself.



Heat (1995), written and directed by Michael Mann, is one of my all-time favourite films. I remember the circumstances under which I first saw it: in a hotel room in Florida in 1996, too young to properly appreciate the skill with which Mann was telling the story, but captivated by the end result all the same,

On the surface, Heat is a simple hunt/pursuit story, the tale of Los Angeles cop Vincent Hanna (played by Al Pacino) and professional thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Both are driven men who live for their chosen line of work:

“I do what I do best: I take down scores. You do what you do best: try to stop guys like me.” — Neil McCauley to Vincent Hanna

All the “standard” action movie elements are there: several robberies and shoot-outs, a car chase, a tense personal encounter between the two leads, vignettes illustrating the personal costs of their decisions on those around them, and of course a final and deadly one-on-one confrontation. The story itself is not terribly special or innovative, but Heat is a work of genius because of how well the story is told: it’s as much a classical tragedy in a modern setting as it is an action film.

Continue reading “Heat”