The film is a simple one; Sonny Wortzik attempts to perform a simple heist on a Brooklyn bank. The money’s not there, minor events lead to things going awry and before long he’s engaged in a standoff with the police. We know things will end badly. Even if we’re not familiar with the resolution of the true story on which it is based, we know that things will eventually go awry for Sonny – the man without a plan. The entire uneasy tone of the film telegraphs the end...
“What is it? Did you just barge inhere... He doesn't have plan. It's all a whim.”
It’s what the head teller is telling Sonny there when he realises that the police are on to him – one of a series of debilitating disappointments he’ll face within the next hundred minutes. I considered that shot as an option for my favourite because it reveals a significant element of the machinations of this bank robbery. Sonny is not so much without a plan as he is without the decisiveness essential to pulling off a bank robbery with hostages. He bonds with the hostages and there reaches a point where – as much as he tries to convince us that “he’s running the show” – we realise he’s not. That shot is early on, but Sonny is on the floor in a compliant position with Mulvaney’s (the bank manager) feet at the forefront of the shot, and Penelope Allen’s head teller arms akimbo observing him like a displeased mother.
Dog Day Afternoon moves me so much because Pacino’s performance, and Lumet’s direction so effectively captures the everyman desperation of Sonny’s situation. “Why rob a bank?” he’s asked. And, although it sounds like a quip, Sonny’s “it’s where they got the money” is such an efficient indication of a random man with nowhere to go. It doesn’t even depend on the specifics of trying to get the money for his boyfriend to get the sex-change operation, there’s a desultory sadness in the way Sonny carries himself, in the way his eyes seem so wide but so lifeless. He’s at rock bottom, but not in an obtrusively dramatic way where he gets a series of scenes to indicate a “breakdown”. It’s a desolation brought on by quietude whereby we might look at Sonny and think, maybe, a series of unfortunate roadblocks could lead us on that unfortunate journey to rock-bottom where he is.
It’s why THAT was almost my best shot. His face obscured by the hand he’s using for support after being dealt another blow. It doesn’t matter that the face is that of Pacino (arguably, at his height of popularity in that decade). Dog Day Afternoon is significant just because of how it depends on namelessness and facelessness. The officer bargaining with him cajoles him into giving a name. “I gotta call you something,” Moretti says. He’s so unaware that names don’t even matter. That could be anyone in there after being moved to tipping point.
|MY BEST SHOT|
Head over to Nathaniel HERE. Other bloggers pitch in on their favourite shot in Dog Day Afternoon.