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Michael Mann’s first feature movie was a television special called The Jericho Mile, which was released theatrically in Europe. It won the Emmy for best MOW in 1979 and the DGA Best Director award. His television work also includes being the executive producer on Miami Vice and Crime Story. Contrary to popular belief, he is not the creator of these shows but the executive producer and the showrunner.
As a remake of his TV pilot L.A. Takedown, Heat is a mercurial exercise in cinematic form, shifting between the poles of elaborately choreographed action set-pieces to the long-lensed, tightly focused, intimate exchanges between couples. Personal dramas are played out in glass-walled houses, overlooking the sea or against the abstracted backdrops of flickering lights in cityscapes.
Three action sequences structure the film – an ambush, a street battle and a spectacular fight-to-the-death in the film’s climactic moments on an airplane runway. These experiments with the formal possibilities of the crime genre make Heat a high point in the cinema of Michael Mann.
After The Last of the Mohicans, Michael Mann returned to the crime genre with the masterful and mesmeric Heat.
This is a moody, sonorous and elegiac saga, famous for the first screen pairing of Robert De Niro, as master thief Neil McCauley, and Al Pacino, as LA cop Vincent Hanna. It is a film laden with death and a sense of sad inevitability as the characters wander around as phantasmal presences, finding each other only to lose each other again.
Mann’s first cinema feature as director was Thief (1981) starring James Caan. His next film The Keep (1983) was, in retrospect, an uncharacteristic choice, being that it is a supernatural thriller set in Nazi-occupied Romania. Though it was a commercial flop, the film has since attained cult status amongst fans.
In 1986, Mann was the first to bring Thomas Harris’s character of Hannibal Lecter to the screen with Manhunter, his adaptation of the novel Red Dragon, which starred Brian Cox as a more down-to-earth Hannibal. The story was remade less than 20 years after it came out by Brett Ratner presumably because Anthony Hopkins reprisal of the role in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal had made the character a highly lucrative property. In an interview on the Manhunter DVD, star William Petersen comments that because Mann is so focused on his creations, it takes several years for Mann to complete a film; Petersen believes that this is why Mann does not make films very often.
He gained widespread recognition in 1992 for his film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s book Last of the Mohicans. His biggest critical successes in the 1990s began with the release of Heat in 1995 and The Insider in 1999. The films, which featured Al Pacino along with Robert De Niro in Heat and Russell Crowe in The Insider, showcased Mann’s cinematic style and adeptness at creating rich, complex storylines as well as directing actors. The Insider was nominated for seven Academy Awards as a result, including a nomination for Mann’s direction.
With his next film Ali starring Will Smith in 2001, he started experimenting with digital cameras. The film helped catapult Will Smith to greater fame, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.
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Heat by michael mann
In 1979, Mann wrote a 180-page draft of Heat. He re-wrote it after making Thief in 1981 hoping to find a director to make it and mentioning it publicly in a promotional interview for his 1983 film The Keep. In the late 1980s, he offered the film to his friend, film director Walter Hill, who turned him down.
Following the success of Miami Vice and Crime Story, Mann was to produce a new crime television show for NBC. He turned the script that would become Heat into a 90-minute pilot for a television series featuring the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery–Homicide division, featuring Scott Plank in the role of Hanna and Alex McArthur playing the character of Neil McCauley, renamed to Patrick McLaren.