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Synopsis: Theif (1981) is about a professional safecracker who has the chance to acheive his dream of a normal life by working for a mafia boss who has other plans for him.
Who Should Watch This: Theif (1981) is a great film for anyone making their way in the world, trying to build a business, or start a family. This is a great film for young men going places. Also a great film for anyone who loves 80s, synthwave music, or new retro style. This is the stuff all that 80s revival is drawing from.
Things To Look For:
- The diner scene, which James Caan has said is the best scene of his career.
- Tangerine Dream synthwave score.
- First film if Micahel Mann (Collateral, Heat).
Thief is a story we’ve heard many times before, in many other industries. A guy has a chance to make one big score and get out of the game. But it is that story told in a way that is beautiful, grounded, and felt.
Whereas other heist films would blow through the heist with montage, this shows the painstaking process of a single break-in. This is a heist film on par with Rififi (1955) (also recommended, for different reasons) in it’s willingness to just show the process.
I realize this description may sound underwhelming, given how common this story and genre is, but Thief is one of those hidden favorite films for many people, myself included. What makes it great is it’s willingness to play things straight and just let you feel them. In one scene – which James Caan lists at the best of his career – a man sits down and tells a woman what his life dreams. That’s it. There’s no flash, no embellishment. It’s just a human being sharing their feelings in an incredibly intimate and vulnerable way. And it’s a thousand times more watchable than anything else a modern filmmaker might have done.
The other thing that makes this film great is how universal the story is. A guy getting his big break, or getting screwed over by the boss is a story told in many industries. This could easily be a film about artists, and the way they’re treated by studios heads, or a programmer working with a big tech company. The feeling, and the relationships are the same. If you’re an ambitious person, or a professional who values your work, you’ll be able to relate to this film.
This simple and vulnerable beauty translates to every aspect of the filmmaking – from the beautiful colorful noir cinematography to the Tangerine Dream synthwave score. Each moment isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is, as honestly as possible. The film runs long – over two hours – but I think it needs to, in order to feel everything there is to feel here.
Highly recommend this film if you’re trying to do something in the world, and want to feel another character explore every emotion of that journey.
- Watch Thief (1981)
Previous Movie Recommendation: The Libertine (2004)
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