He robbed banks, he walked into police stations just for the hell of it, and he escaped prison like it was an everyday thing. John Dillinger was one of those guys. In an era where criminality was at an all time high, a man like Dillinger robbed banks with ease. But it wasn't just for the money. Dillinger loved planning the job and feeling the thrill of the heist more than the money itself. Today, when we see criminals rob banks we view them as despicable human beings. Dillinger, however, was received well by the public. During the Great Depression, many blamed the banks for the turmoil average citizens were going through, so whenever Dillinger robbed a bank the public was fine with it. The Great Depression turned Dillinger into folklore and gave him celebrity status. Hell, when he was booked everyone wanted a picture with him -- even police and government representatives.
For me, Public Enemies
was the most anticipated film of the year. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are two of my favorite actors and Michael Mann is one of my favorite directors. So how did the film live up to my expectations? Well, it definitely met them, but it never completely surpassed them. The film is a solid drama and it accomplishes everything it sets out to do, but it doesn't do anything new. Mann doesn't do anything revolutionary here and as a result audiences will be left with polarized reactions. But the film itself is still fascinating, and those looking for a good drama will be pleased with Mann's latest movie.
The story it's self is compelling. Mann captures Dillinger's life in such a way that we're meant to feel for him even though his actions are debatable. The film gets you emotionally attached with these characters and it can be tough to watch because you'll be split between the cool robber or the FBI agent trying to do his job. Sometimes you're eager for Dillinger to escape with the money, but sometimes you feel for Bale's character, Agent Purvis, who wants to do the right thing and bring Dillinger to justice. The film is definitely a classic 'cops and robbers' type of film and it doesn't stray from that formula. The problem with the script is that as an audience member we're left wondering what the overall message of the film was. When you step out of the theater you'll no doubt debate whether Dillinger was a 'Robin-Hood' type fellow or if he was a criminal, but that's it. If you're expecting a film with a message you wont get one, what you do get is a pretty bad-ass gangster film.
The film's strengths lie with its performances, production, and cinematography. Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard give us some amazing performances. Depp, however, is the star of the show, giving one of the best performances of his career. He approaches Dillinger in an almost rock-star/celebrity type of fashion. Dillinger knows he's the shit and he doesn't deny it at all. One of the most memorable scenes is when Dillinger walks into a police station, and enters an office that is specifically devoted to his investigation. He smiles as he sees his photos on the wall. While the detectives listen to a baseball game on the radio, he confidently asks "What's the score?". The officer looks right at him and tells him. Depp gives off a priceless smirk as he walks out the office in plain sight. Bale and Cotillard also dish out amazing supporting roles. Sometimes we feel for Bale's character who's just doing his job, and we also feel for Cotillard's character, Billie, who is seeking thrill and excitement in life and is getting it by being with Dillinger.
These performances, however, wouldn't have been possible without production and set design. The film makes you feel as if you're in the 1930's. The cars, the guns, the buildings, the music, the culture, and the environment as a whole were beautifully created. Throughout the entire film, you're instantly sucked into the 1930's and you don't doubt any of it. The set pieces also allow for some wonderful cinematography. Mann definitely leaves his stamp with this film by mostly using High Definition hand held cameras to shoot a good portion of the movie. Some may not like this style of shooting, but I would say it gave the film a style of its own. It felt like I was watching a film from the 70's. The dark blacks and the color spectrum, along with the grain, also gave the film a 'Godfather
' look to it.
Overall, Public Enemies
was an amazing film. It's minor weaknesses rarely effect the film's drama and its ability to capture you as an audience member. For the last two and a half hours I was in the 1930's, following the life of one of the most famous icons in American history, Public Enemy #1: John Dillinger. Yes it could have shown more of the Great Depression and yes it could have given us more of a message, but this is a docudrama. You watch it because you want to see Dillinger's life, and the film captures it beautifully. This is definitely the best film I've seen this year, but it might not have the potential to hold this position. The film isn't for everyone, so beware. Those that are fans of heist movies, cops and robbers, and 1930's gangsters will take joy with Public Enemies
. I can't wait to see it again.
My Spill Rating: FULL PRICE!!!