Dog Day Afternoon

Dog Day Afternoon ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers.

You have to search for the proper words to describe how magnificent of a film Dog Day Afternoon is. Sidney Lumet has made one of the most exhausting films I have seen in my life. The scorching heat of the sun, sweaty clothings and blinding lights at night are authentic, or at least feel real, supported by a great cast of performers most notably Al Pacino and John Cazale. Dog Day Afternoon is a cinematic feast in regards to a small-scale story that continually grabs the viewer's full attention.

The opening of the film summarizes the entirety of it: an ordinary day. Elton John’s Amoreena plays in the background, but does not correspond with the images shown of people doing day-to-day activities such as getting stuck in traffic, working on sites, having a good time with friends or taking care of children. This is a bit ‘off’ because something smells funny, in a sense. The disconnected build into the suddenness of the actual robbing is riveting. Amoreena is the only song played in the film and indicated important themes through the words spoken: about Sonny’s (Al Pacino) longing for better times and his loss of a concrete identity.

I don’t think the dramatic events are ‘bizarre’ until the matter becomes an opportunity for the police and the media to seize. Enter Dede Allen, in one of the film’s early critical junctures where her editing's flawless, in my opinion. She can transform the calmest of moments into nerve-wracking. Shots fly by aggressively, but not in a way that is detrimental to the tremendous technical this film has because rather what it does is barrier the time for breathing. Editing is exceptional, relentless, unforgiving. Dede Allen, as always, pulls it off quite remarkably.

Al Pacino and John Cazale deliver the two best performances of 1975. The screen presence is insanely good. The benefits of having a claustrophobic area is here, enabling the actors to eat the screen if they need to, and both of them did and it’s acting in the highest form so it deserves the highest praise. It is very unfortunate that we lost Cazale early, but Pacino’s character cannot stand alone, which makes Sal (John Cazale) such a likeable person and special. He is like a younger sibling to Pacino and the history of working together in projects that are as worth-seeing as this, the chemistry is wonderful.

Another theme is police brutality. There are no scenes containing violence coming from the authority, only a thought-out plan to persuade the robbers and the viewers that the police empathizes with our characters. Details about the infamous Attica massacre are heard through dialogue and even criminals are aware of the injustices in the country. During my initial viewing, I never anticipated the complete shift of my response to the situation. At the end of the film, the police fulfilled a promise, but not without the help of cheating. Sal was killed, and no answer is valid for what happened. It was out of hatred and disgust. It was unfair.

Dog Day Afternoon is a top 3 Sidney Lumet film for me because of the quick progression, keeping every scene from falling short of liveliness, appropriate enough to provide us a masterpiece. See it now, if you haven’t yet. Themes are fleshed out in a subtle way, and relevant today.

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