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My Michael/Miami Vice

Friday, July 28, 2006

Miami Vice posterMiami Vice

Dir: Michael Mann

I’ve been very eagerly anticipating the release of this movie, based solely on the trailer — even then, it’s only on the visuals of the trailer; I watched it online with the sound turned off. I have this thing with wanting to go into movies as blind as possible so as to have the least amount of surprises spoiled for me (when I saw V for Vendetta I thought the masked-man was the bad guy, that’s how little I knew — I was very pleasantly surprised with how it went down). But those visuals were enough. There’s just something about that particular look to a film that gives me goosebumps; the camera swooping across a harbour at sunset, and the very particular soft shades of blue and pink the sky gets at that moment (known as the ‘magic hour‘), with lights blinking on across the city skyline; helicopters maneuvering between skyscrapers at midnight, their searchlights reflected in the surrounding glass canyons; that now almost cliché shot of flying above tall buildings and streets with the camera pointed straight down. It gets me every time. Not really sure why. For some reason, it seems to impose weight and importance on the proceedings. It feels like life and death — which of course, in these movies, it is.

Michael Bay (and, I guess, his various cinematographers) is really good at this kind of look; think of the opening-credits montage from Bad Boys (Miami), and the sequence part-way into The Rock when the action shifts to San Francisco. It’s why I’ve always been a Michael Bay defender where it’s possible to give him a defence — Pearl Harbor is highly underrated; although there are some moments where it’s just not possible — Bad Boys II anyone?

Where Bay is, despite his certain strengths, admittedly still like a high-schooler in terms of his filmmaking, Michael Mann is undoubtedly a PhD. He takes the same settings and topics that Bay likes to fool around with and decidedly does not have fun with them — he makes them absolutely real and absolutely devastating to all those involved. Think of the near total disintegration of every character in Heat (one of my favourite movies), or the (ridiculous) way in which Tom Cruise is transformed by his job into a killer robot in Collateral (literally transformed — why do you think his suit and hair are gunmetal grey? I actually think this movie is Mann’s only failure, but he didn’t write it so you can’t hold him solely to blame).

Which brings us back to Miami Vice.

Miami Vice

I’ve never seen the original tv show so I can’t say for sure how much of an influence this was — aside from the characters’ names — but I will say it easily could have been called Grand Theft Auto – The Movie. Watching the film felt like stepping directly into that game, and the twilit world I described above — which is all I think Mann was really going for. This is an exercise in the creation of a setting more than anything else; right from the start we are totally immersed in the lush, colourful and dangerous Miami night, which is photographed beautifully throughout (though at times edited strangely) by Mann and cinematographer Dion Beebe. The look is actually reminiscent of Fernando Meirelles (City of God) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams) in its unsteady camera, grainy, off-centre shots and fearlessness in low light. To wit, the plot is about as basic as you can get — detectives James ‘Sonny’ Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) go undercover to infiltrate a drug cartel. That’s it; although, even with so basic a story it still manages to be complex and even leave a few loose threads untied by the end. We have no real deep exploration of character or anything messy like that to get in the way of the action, although Mann does a good job of presenting the story using easily identifiable macho-archetypes without resorting to cliché; all we are told is that loyalty is important (as in every cop movie), and love will preserve your soul at the end of a day of staring death in the face, even if it must be relinquished.

It was definitely enjoyable, and again the visuals alone make it stand high above most other offerings in the genre.


Miami Vice

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Saturday, July 29, 2006 12:48 am

    Thanks for sharing. Totally agree with your comment about the settings.

  2. Saturday, July 29, 2006 10:07 am

    “Grand Theft auto – The Movie”
    That’s exactly what I hoped it would be like:)
    Great setting. Great atmosphere. Great game.Now I’ll definitely like the film (and I DID see the original tv-show, btw;)

  3. Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:27 pm

    I’m thinking we may see a Director’s Cut of this when it comes out on DVD.  There are few moments, upon reflection, where it felt like there was something missing.  And I think there was a shot in the trailer that inferred a whole big sequence that wasn’t in the movie.

  4. armoo permalink
    Monday, July 31, 2006 4:31 pm

    C- it only passed because of the realistic shooting scenes.. that seems to be all the Manns good for these days.. sad but true

  5. Sunday, August 6, 2006 12:18 pm

    Mann walks a fine line with Miami Vice. It’s all style over substance. I did find it interesting however, that even though I had never seen the original tv show, like most of the ‘under-30’ crowd, I felt like I knew the characters. The partnership between Sonny and Rico was understood; they were loyal to each other because they were partners, nuff said.

    Even though this is minor Mann (I did like Collateral by the way, very much so), it still packs a whollop. You’re right about the comparisons between City of God and 21 Grams. To this I would add Soderbergh, and Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana, heck, even Spielberg’s latest works are using this handheld, urban, grit-style. Mann even mixes hi-def video for the night scenes with his 35mm film work – to which all young filmmakers should rejoice.

  6. Sunday, August 6, 2006 11:10 pm

    I thought he was using hi-def, or digital, video all the way through, but you only noticed it in the night scenes because they were so grainy.

    But you think it’s a mix?

  7. Tuesday, August 8, 2006 10:16 am

    On IMDB tech specs they say that some segments were shot with 35mm, but just from doing a bit of searching, it seems that all of it was shot on HD, so I’m not sure what the deal is there. I’ll do some more searching, mostly cause it’s interesting to me.

  8. Tuesday, October 24, 2006 7:58 pm

    Zoiks! Colling Farrell is one of the new spokespersons for the special olympics? That’s kinda strange. He’s getting over an addiction to pain killers and has a sex tape out. That’s pretty special if you ask me!

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