A slow gritty look at the life of John Dillinger
Reviewed by Axellion for Public Enemies at 2010-04-01 10:41:29
Public Enemies is a solid, convincing film about the exploits of John Dillinger, and the team of investigators tasked with apprehending the infamous bank robber. Director Michael Mann has crafted a great thick atmosphere around the events of Dillinger?s exploits and his eventual down fall.
Johnny Depp starts as Dillinger, a self-stylized robin hood of depression era America, he and his gang roam the country taking banks for everything they have. During his travels, John charms and falls for a beautiful young lady; Evelyn Frechette played by the wonderful Marion Cotillard. They become deeply connected, nearly inseparable. Depp?s performance is understated and lacking any of the wild characteristics that his more popular portrayals are known for. He brings great class and seriousness to the role of Americas most wanted man. Cotillard is equally as thoughtful about her role, playing Dillinger?s great love with grace and poise.
Dillinger is chased by the fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation, and agent Melvin Purvis, Christian Bale, as is true of the most of the films cast; does not over play his character, reframing from screen grabbing performances, opting for a more subdued presence then capable of.
The story is slowly paced; perhaps a bit to slow as the mid-section tends to drag a bit. Dillinger finds his list of friends disappearing, organized crime is moving away from simple robbery into the more profitable venues of gambling and kidnapping. The heads of Chicago?s families begin to see Dillinger as a threat to their security, his flamboyant headline grabbing raids bringing unwanted attention to there door steps.
I wanted to love this film; its rough take on the story of America?s most famous bank robber was poignant and well told. The gunfights had realism and a lack of explosive style that I appreciated in light of today?s frequent over the top action sequences, Unfortunately I was slightly let down, I did not connect with the characters, Depp and Bale lacked the spark that a great hero villain relationship; never getting to dig into each others nature. It?s a waste to have these two fine actors and never have them explore an antagonistic connection. The entire film has a grounded authentic composition, the action sequences are edited with almost no music, the intense gun fire and low upfront angles give them a gritty more striking tone.
Public Enemies is a very well made film, its cinematography and set pieces are beautiful, the characters are grounded in reality, the action is dirty and hard hitting. But I think it may take itself a bit too seriously. Depp doesn?t get to fully develop the persona of Dillinger; his motives are never completely visualized. It is a bit too long and slow in the second act, but does have a great authentic feeling. I enjoyed its details and realistic rendition of fascinating true events, but was not caught by the characters, it failed to grab and excite me.
I disagree. I think that Snyder is in a no-win situation here. As mentioned, to make a film replicating the entire Watchmen series would be 4 hours ? at least. The alternative was to ?interpret? the series and make it more watchable for people who have never read the book. Of course, had he done this, fans would be enraged that he had prostituted Alan Moore?s masterpiece just to make it ?Hollywood?. Instead, he stuck as closely to the story as he could, crammed as much as possible in under 3 hours and produced what I?m sure most fans would agree, is a pretty great homage to one of the best graphic novels written. Seeing almost exact images from the book translated to the big screen was a thrill and I thought they did a great job. I thought the cast portrayed the ?feel? of the book very well. While the sex scene may have been a bit overdone I thought the overall relationship was just as believable in the movie as it was in the book. Haley played Rorchach to perfection and Patrick Wilson made a good Dan Dreiberg.
Having said that, I?m curious to see how people who have never read the book will take this movie. Personally, I think that without the benefit of reading the book and having the entire back story, the movie wouldn?t be nearly as enjoyable. I don?t think this works well as just a standalone movie the way other comic book movies do ? you don?t need to read a Batman comic to enjoy ?The Dark Knight?.
As a big fan of the book and of Alan Moore?s work I thought this was a great movie and I can?t wait to see the longer director?s cut.
It struck me how little the main character (played by Matt
Damon) actually does in this movie. He never makes any active
choices - when he is directing things for the CIA, he announces,
and others carry out his decisions. He is pretty blank as a
character. He does make a couple of choices with regard to his
son, though. But he also doesn't choose to deter his son beyond his vague suggestions about life in the CIA. Most other
decisions are made for him and he follows orders when he is not
giving orders. He does make the choice to turn around in the
hallway and go back to the Skull and Bones innitiation. He
chooses that life. He does what is expected of him. He has sex when he is dragged into it, he gets married when the girl getspregnant, he goes overseas when asked.