Movie Ninety Four
In simple terms, Dog Day Afternoon is a film about a bank robbery. When the layers start peeling back, however, we see a much bigger picture. Truly one of the great films by the master, Sidney Lumet.
Dog Day Afternoon is a film without a backstory. It opens with the bank robbery and unfolds from there. Things do not go as planned from the start, which is actually riveting. As we learn more about Sonny (Pacino) and his accomplice, Sal (John Cazale), the more we root for them. I don’t wish to spoil a major portion of the plot, but the reason for Sonny’s robbery was enormously progressive for 1975 and would still make headlines today. In fact, the story is based on real events taken from a Life magazine article from a 1972 bank robbery
What is undoubtedly his best performance in my eyes, Al Pacino carries Dog Day Afternoon to great heights with the assistance of Lumet and the rest of the cast. He is charismatic, smart, charming, and keeps a mostly cool head while things crumble beneath him. Considering how much goes awry from their plan, I was rooting for his escape even though I feared it was unlikely. The ending keeps you guessing until the very end, though.
In Lumet’s book, Making Movies, he states that much of the dialogue is improvised and in certain scenes I think that shows more than others. Particularly the scenes between the negotiator and Sonny, we rarely see movie stars fumble words but in this context it’s an added sense of realism and humanity to the characters.
Dog Day Afternoon should be the movie people look to Al Pacino’s career for, not Godfather or Scarface, though he is excellent in both. Pacino IS Sonny in this film. When a performance that great comes along, it ends up being the rest of the movie that has to play catch-up, and Dog Day Afternoon keeps the pace.
I give it 5 “Attica!”s out of 5.