100 Greatest Scenes Number 39: Face-to-Face

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Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

As good as Heat is, it will always be known for one key scene, the first “proper” scene between two juggernaut actors of their generation. They had shared the same movie in The Godfather Part II but never the screen so the moment that Al Pacino’s cop came face-to-face with Robert De Niro’s bank robber would always be one of legend.

Greatest Scene Number 39: Heat – Face-to-Face

It would have been easy for this scene to have disappointed. So much was placed on the shoulders of this moment, bringing arguably the two best actors of their generation together, that it could have felt very mediocre and passable. It isn’t a scene full of blistering action or huge amounts of suspense but is a scene which suits both actors much better – a conversation in a diner.

It means that the scene plays to the strengths of De Niro, who exudes calm intensity while Pacino can control the direction of the conversation, setting-up great interactions with his counterpart. These interactions aren’t heated, they don’t shout or even raise their voices slightly but you can’t help but feel the pressure between the characters (and subsequently the actors).

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There is no huge amount of action in the scene but there doesn’t need to be

Just because the scene is not one of large action or even major consequence doesn’t mean it is boring or even inconsequential. De Niro and Pacino manage to make the almost ordinary conversation feel important. They talk about their lives, their loved-ones or lack-of and how their jobs now control (and in Pacino’s case) ruin their lives. It is a comparison of the two opposing forces and a showcase of how similar the two are. Their dialogue mirrors each other, with Pacino saying he couldn’t do anything but be a cop while De Niro agrees about being a thief. The same at the culmination of the scene when they both agree that they will be willing to kill the other if they must.

It isn’t just a key scene in the two actor’s career but an important one in the movie. It is when cat-and-mouse come face-to-face and realise that they aren’t that different, that they share a lot of similarities and that they could even be friends if the situation is different. It is also a movie that cleverly foreshadows key events, as the next time the two meet, one of the characters will be forced to kill the other.

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The similarities between the two characters are highlighted in the scene

It all comes down to the two actors across a table from each other though and much has been made of who came away from the exchange the better actor. It doesn’t matter to be honest, both are brilliant in the scene. What is more of a concern is how far both actors have fallen in their respective careers since.

Overall, the diner scene from Heat is an example of two great actors at their best. Many people had waited patiently for the moment De Niro and Pacino would come face-to-face and they didn’t disappoint. It isn’t a scene with a lot of action, it doesn’t set the screen alive with drama but the intensity, exchange and situation the scene highlights is enough to capture the audience and keep them hooked.

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An iconic moment
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