Thursday, 5 November 2015

Two men escape the scene of a heist in the opening of Michael Mann's Thief, and head back to their hideout in the city. As they reach a bridge, the streetlights of Chicago come into hazy view through the rain-soaked windscreen, luring them home like moths. Suddenly, the driver turns onto a darkened side-street. The lights can only be followed for so long, and the shot cuts, soon revealing the detour as the way back to base. Hidden in the shadows of the illuminated city, this backstreet lock-up keeps the thieves out of sight; a means of self-preservation, allowing them a place to lay low and conduct their business without attracting the unwanted attention of cops. But the lights seen fleetingly from the bridge are also landmarks of home. There's a safety built in to their presence; a vision of normalcy glimpsed momentarily before retreat into the darkness. Crime as a means to a romantic ideal of life, just out of reach but forever on the horizon. The themes of Mann's career outlined in a single shot, barely ten minutes into his debut feature.

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