There is something about a heist film that makes it one of the most attractive plot hooks for audiences and it has nothing to do with the meticulous planning of the robbery or the brilliance of the execution. Instead, it is to do with the possibility of pulling off the impossible. It is the very audacity of the plan.
It is the very audacity of the plan.
A single person or a small crew pitted against the big bank or the government agency. A usually dysfunctional individual or disenchanted group pitted against powerful social, political or economic institutions that wield enormous influence and authority.
The odds are invariably stacked heavily against the perpetrator or perpetrators. The target site is often heavily guarded. There are multiple security systems to beat. There are formidable security protocols to unravel. Time is of the essence. Exit strategies are often open-ended and subject to last-minute changes based on the scenario that unfolds on the ground. There is no room for error. The risk is not merely a fairly long and unpleasant stint in jail; it often involves the likelihood of grievous bodily harm or even death as the outcome in a botched heist.
To pull off the perfect heist, therefore, involves not only inside information or massive doses of good luck. It involves a firm resolve to dive headlong into a multitude of troubles. A confidence and daring that no matter what the obstacles and no matter how small the probability of success, there is a smart (and safe) way in and out.
It is this “David versus Goliath” battle that draws us in. To survive and thrive, the underdog must stay several steps ahead of the system. The underdog must often pull off the unthinkable by outthinking the establishment.
Of course, in most cases, there is the option to abort and save everybody a good deal of hassle. But the delightful (and demented) tendency of thieves and burglars – whether they are novices or hard-nosed criminal masterminds – to ignore every alarm bell and push on is what makes the heist film endlessly fascinating and irresistible.
So to all those tenacious, lawless underdogs on film, we say – thank you for the outrageous and wicked schemes you come up with. You may be gambling with your life. But with a little bit of luck, and with us rooting for you, you may just pull off something so bold and exhilarating that, even if only for a few moments, we are taken out of ourselves and our boringly ordered lives!