Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Turnip Cures Elvis

Having never been that interested in The Dead Blonde even when she was alive, while Channel 4 ramped up the controversy-tron last night I watched Sneakers on shiny disc – a great little movie that probably would make this list now I come to think of it.

I’ve had a soft spot for caper movies since I first saw the likes of Topkapi and Gambit on television when I was a kiddie, mainly for the intricate plotting and innumerable twists. Maybe it comes down to a perversity in taking delight at a well-formulated plan coming apart and watching the participants improvise their way out.

Apparently caper movies are simply comedic versions of heist movies but there’s more to them than that. I suppose they may roughly follow the same format and archetypes, but it’s the variations that make them interesting, whether it’s the characters involved (which are usually a fine selection of lowlifes and miscreants), the target, or the aftermath.

The best recent examples were last year’s excellent Inside Man and the much improved remakes of Ocean’s Eleven and The Thomas Crown Affair – even if the later differed from the norm by being more of a one-man operation than a group effort. Of course the least said about the remake of The Italian Job the better, if not for anything else because the original is a certified classic.

There’s a film so darn good in concept and execution that writer Troy Kennedy Martin, having bought the initial idea from his brother Ian, transplanted the gold heist back to the Second World War for the equally entertaining Kelly’s Heroes. In fact, as war movies go, once the heist is replaced by a practically suicidal mission it results in the likes of The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and Robert Aldrich’s marvellously nihilistic The Dirty Dozen.

When it comes to heist movies themselves, obviously there’s Heat, Kubrick’s calculated The Killing, and the absolute granddaddy of the lot, Rififi. David Mamet’s Heist, which immediately nails its colours to the mast in title alone, revels in the visual sleight of hand and misdirection that play a key role in capers. Although they are always categorised as action movies, should Die Hard and Die Hard With a Vengeance get honorary heist/caper membership?

Although there is payment for a job well done in Sneakers, the target of the operation is more a MacGuffin than a haul of filthy lucre, with a high tech involvement. Unlike the Mission: Impossible series of films – and let’s not forget that the original television series was actually inspired by TopkapiSneakers concentrates as much of character as it does plot. And it stars Mary McDonnell.

A Region 1 DVD, the discs includes a commentary and Making Of documentary as bonus material. It’s interesting to see director Phil Alden Robinson, and writers Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker talk about how the idea for Sneakers came about while they were researching WarGames, and how the story developed in the ten years it took them to get the film made. While they discuss the various ins and outs, the trio sit around a table on which are piled the thirty-odd drafts it took to reach what eventually appeared on screen.

Thinking about it, with everyone getting their knickers in a tangle about the broadcast on terrestrial TV, the caper movie I really should have been watching last night to keep in with the spirit of things was Ronin.

Sneakers does it for me in the caper movie stakes. How about you?


At 9:42 pm, Blogger Valentine Suicide said...

Sneakers does it for me as I also gave a soft spot for the Caper and the Heist.

No mention of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot though...?

At 10:07 pm, Blogger Valentine Suicide said...

PS, GD - There's no mention in the commentary about where they got those fabulous airship photo's in Cosmo's office is there?

At 11:24 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Valentine, shame on me for forgetting Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. I would say it was Cimino's best film but I'm probably one of the few people who actually like Heaven's Gate. The 220 minute version, of course.

Actually there is one great caper I missed as well. It's probably the best heist-aftermath with the crew turning on each other. I mean, of course, Alexander Mackendrick's The Ladykillers.

As for Sneakers, I remember the airship pics... but I think I better watch it again to properly remind myself.

At 3:51 am, Blogger wcdixon said...

Sneakers, Thomas Crowne Affair, Oceans 11, Inside Man...

You got 'em all, my man.


Post a Comment

<< Home