Heat is the film that commanded me to make movies. I saw it with Chris Kish in Louisville, Colorado, in 1996. It changed me forever. I’ve watched this scene hundreds of times in my life, studying it to see what makes it tick, to make sure that I’ll make something like it someday. Of course, it’s power comes from the nearly three hours that have led up to this point. Just before this final scene, the main “bad guy,” Robert DeNiro’s Neil McCauley, has escaped with his dream girl and has every opportunity to flee and ride off into the sunset, but when he catches wind of one last chance to settle a score with Kevin Gage’s Waingro, a double-crossing animal of a criminal, who severely tainted a score in the first act and who tried to have Neil killed in the beginning of the film, Neil cannot resist and turns away from the escape path. Bad move for him, great for Vincent Hanna, the Al Pacino character who has finally caught up to him. We care for Neil because he follows a code in his world. He is a sociopath, but we still hope he gets away because he has worked so hard and has been through so much to get to this point. Fortunately, director Michael Mann snaps us out of it: ya can’t rob banks, even if it’s your profession. And so this scene is the inevitable conclusion to this world. Neil must be stopped and though he was a criminal, he deserves a compassionate witness to his death, even if that witness is the cop who brought him down.
Watch how Vincent looks off into the distance, wondering how in the world he got there, in the middle of this bizarre, blinking, future field. And Moby’s God Moving Over the Face of the Waters is the final flourish that grants the picture epic status.