Public Enemies (2009)
Michael Mann makes some great films. I loved Heat and grew up on Miami Vice. Well, with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale as his lead actors based around John Dillinger’s rise and fall, I was intrigued.
The first thing that impressed me the most, was the look and sound of the film. It’s fantastic. The settings and costumes of the 1930’s is perfect, making you almost feel the fabric of the tweeds, the cotton of their shirts. Everything is immaculate which should result with an Oscar. Mann’s infamous scene in Heat during the bank robbery is known for it’s lack of music and steady hum of machine gun fire. There’s quite a few of these in Public Enemies. You can hear the bullets pounding, thumping the buildings, cars, trees, anything that gets in the way of a tommy gun or rifle. What makes these scenes so powerful is that Mann shoots his action sequences so clearly. You can follow the action, which isn’t cluttered or choppy, sometimes giving a clean birds eye view when needed. There is no doubt or hesitation when someone gets shot, punched or scheming an attack. You know where everyone is and can anticipate the action properly. This is the strength of the film: the combination of great sound, settings and cinematography.
Well, the core of any good film is good characters to propel the story forward. Mann has this potential with Bale vs Depp, but doesn’t develop the characters enough, giving them instead aloof, detached demeanors, coldly moving the plot forward and to its conclusion. Depp’s romance and true love, played by the lovely Marion Cotillard, is supposed to show the intimate side of Dillinger, but he doesn’t convincinly show why he’s so crazy about her, why he’s willing to risk his safety for hers. Cotillard’s part amounts to nothing more than a sideshow unfortunately. Bale brings his usual intensity to this role and it comes off flat. He seems more military than FBI or police, coming off too cold, almost forcing the audience to cheer on Depp’s Dillinger. Depp’s acting is impeccable but he also seems limited by the script which doesn’t fully develop his character like Bale’s. He’s on screen for almost every frame of film, but in the end, we don’t learn much more about him.
The plot is solid enough. It’s an easy story to follow and keeps us engaged, wondering when or how he’ll be caught (if you don’t know already). But even with the detailed settings, superb sound and well done action sequences, the film comes off as empty because the characters don’t capture enough of our interests to truly care.
Filed under: Modern Film | 6 Comments
Tags: Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Michael Mann, Public Enemies