Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Brief Intro

Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) is a riveting crime drama based on a true story. The film portrays a bank robbery gone awry, revealing the complexities of human nature and societal issues. Starring Al Pacino and John Cazale, it’s a captivating exploration of desperation, media influence, and social identity.

Literary Devices Used in Dog Day Afternoon


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sonny shouting “Attica!”The irony lies in Sonny referencing the Attica Prison riots, symbolizing rebellion against authority, while he himself is trying to evade the authorities.
Sonny planning a simple heistThe plan was supposed to be quick and easy, but it spirals into a media circus and a prolonged standoff, highlighting the ironic twist of fate.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Opening montage of New YorkThe grim and gritty shots of New York City foreshadow the chaotic and tense atmosphere of the bank heist.
Sonny’s nervous behaviorHis jitteriness before entering the bank hints at the impending disaster of the robbery.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sonny waving the gunThe gun symbolizes both power and impotence, as Sonny tries to control the situation but ultimately feels helpless.
The bank vaultRepresents the unattainable dreams and the barriers to achieving them.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sonny’s relationship with SalMetaphor for loyalty and camaraderie under extreme pressure.
Bank as a microcosmThe bank represents society at large, with diverse individuals thrown together in a crisis.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Media frenzy outside the bankExaggerated portrayal of media sensationalism, showcasing their intrusive and overwhelming presence.
Sonny’s passionate speechesHis grandiose declarations amplify his desperation and determination.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sonny’s memories of LeonThe flashbacks provide context to Sonny’s motives and personal struggles.
Sal’s war memoriesThese flashbacks add depth to Sal’s character, revealing his past traumas.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Repeated phone callsHighlight the theme of communication and its breakdowns.
The American flagAppears multiple times, symbolizing the American Dream and its failings.


Movie SceneDevice Example
“Attica!” chantDirect allusion to the Attica Prison riot, invoking themes of rebellion and injustice.
Sonny’s talk of VietnamReferences to the Vietnam War highlight the social and political unrest of the era.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sonny and Sal’s conversationTheir dialogue reveals their contrasting personalities and deepens their character development.
Sonny’s negotiation with the policeDemonstrates his quick thinking and desperation.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Calm opening scene vs. chaotic heistThe stark contrast sets the tone for the film’s escalating tension.
Sonny’s calm exterior vs. inner turmoilHighlights the complexity of his character.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Sonny Wortzik

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronySonny’s leadership role contrasts with his chaotic decision-making, revealing the irony of his perceived control.
SymbolismHis gun symbolizes his desire for power and control over his life.

Sal Naturile

Literary DeviceExplanation
FlashbacksSal’s war memories provide insight into his troubled past and loyalty to Sonny.
DialogueHis sparse but impactful lines reflect his intense, reserved nature.

Leon Shermer

Literary DeviceExplanation
ForeshadowingLeon’s initial distance from Sonny hints at deeper personal conflicts.
MetaphorLeon’s struggle represents the broader LGBTQ+ challenges during the era.

Character Dynamics

The relationships in “Dog Day Afternoon” drive the narrative forward. Sonny and Sal’s bond under pressure showcases loyalty and trust, while Sonny’s interactions with Leon and the hostages highlight themes of love, desperation, and societal pressure. The tense dynamics between the robbers and the police reflect broader societal conflicts, making the characters’ relationships central to the film’s themes.

Thematic Analysis


SymbolismThe bank itself becomes a symbol of unattainable dreams, reflecting Sonny’s desperation.
DialogueSonny’s frantic speeches highlight his increasing despair.

Identity and Society

MotifThe American flag motif represents societal ideals and the characters’ struggles to fit within them.
AllusionReferences to the Vietnam War and Attica riot underscore themes of identity and societal discontent.

Media Influence

HyperboleThe exaggerated media presence reflects the sensationalism and impact of media on public perception.
IronyThe media’s portrayal of Sonny as a hero and a villain simultaneously underscores the complexity of media influence.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronyCinematographyThe contrast between sunny exteriors and tense interiors highlights ironic undertones.
ForeshadowingSound DesignOminous music cues foreshadow impending doom.
SymbolismVisualsFrequent shots of the American flag symbolize broader societal themes.
MetaphorLightingThe use of shadows and light to metaphorically represent characters’ moral ambiguity.
HyperboleEditingRapid cuts during media frenzy scenes exaggerate the chaos and sensationalism.
FlashbacksCamera AnglesClose-ups during flashbacks emphasize personal trauma and memories.
MotifRepetitionRepeated visual and auditory motifs enhance thematic depth.
AllusionSet DesignPeriod-accurate props and settings allude to the historical context of the 1970s.
DialoguePerformanceActors’ delivery and body language amplify the impact of key dialogues.
JuxtapositionScene CompositionContrasting scenes highlight thematic and emotional shifts.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Sonny’s “Attica!” Chant
    Watch on YouTube
    This scene uses irony and allusion, with Sonny invoking the Attica riot to rally the crowd. It underscores themes of rebellion and societal injustice while illustrating the media’s role in sensationalizing the event.
  2. Sonny’s Phone Call with Leon
    Watch on YouTube
    This emotionally charged scene uses flashbacks and dialogue to reveal Sonny’s personal struggles and motivations, deepening his character and highlighting themes of identity and love.

Scene Breakdowns

Sonny’s “Attica!” Chant

  • Irony: The irony of Sonny invoking a prison riot during his bank heist highlights his desperation and the chaotic nature of his plan.
  • Allusion: References to the Attica riot invoke themes of rebellion and societal injustice, adding depth to the narrative.
  • Cinematography: The camera captures the crowd’s reaction, emphasizing the chaotic and emotionally charged atmosphere.

Sonny’s Phone Call with Leon

  • Flashbacks: The scene includes brief flashbacks that provide context to Sonny’s relationship with Leon, adding emotional depth.
  • Dialogue: The heartfelt conversation reveals Sonny’s vulnerabilities and motivations, making his character more relatable.
  • Sound Design: The background noise fades, focusing on the intimacy and tension of their conversation, enhancing the emotional impact.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What literary device is prominently used when Sonny chants “Attica!”?
  2. Which device is used to provide background on Sonny and Leon’s relationship?
  3. What does the American flag symbolize throughout the film?
    • A) Freedom
    • B) The American Dream
    • C) Desperation
    • D) Identity
  4. How does the film’s sound design enhance the use of foreshadowing?
    • A) Through ironic music
    • B) By using ominous music cues
    • C) With loud explosions
    • D) Through silence
  5. What is a key theme highlighted by the media’s portrayal of the bank heist?
    • A) Love
    • B) Identity
    • C) Media Influence
    • D) Desperation