1 July 2009 | Billy_Costigan
John Dillinger- Public Enemy #1
The year is 1933, it's the Great Depression. A time for the desperate to do the unthinkable. Crime was on the rise and people were suffering. For John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) it was a time of infinite possibilities and opportunities. To combat the sharp incline in rampant criminal activity, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) forms the FBI, led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Together they target Dillinger as public enemy number one. Relying on new methods of intelligence gathering (such as tracking the purchase location of a coat or recording phone conversations), the firepower of trained gunmen, and his own relentless nature, Purvis gets closer and closer to Dillinger and company.
"I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars... and you. What else do you need to know?" - John Dillinger. Johnny Depp IS John Dillinger. He's perfect for the role. The cool, confident and almost cocky nature of the character is really portrayed on screen (such as bragging to reporters about his bank jobs and teasing Purvis and agents who are after him). It's a look of how a man lived and succeeded in a hard time. Dillinger was a man that lived in the moment as only a man in the depression could. From the worlds on John Dillinger, "I'm to busy having fun today to even think about tomorrow." Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Bale also succeeds in his role and is a solid counterpart against Depp. It works well having two top, well known actors opposing each other on screen.
The film is directed by Michael Mann who brought us such films as Heat, The Insider, and Collateral and he adds another good film to his resume with this one. The action sequences, bank heists, and shootouts in this film are probably the biggest highlights. After all, this is from the same guy who gave us one of the most famous and arguably the best shootout of all time in Heat. The sequences are cool, slick, and gritty. Excellence at it's best. (I have to throw in a note of praise for the superb shootout at the Little Bohemia lodge, which was an extremely impressive scene)
The cat and mouse aspect makes it intriguing, but I think more could have been added to it. It just feels as if something was missing. Much of the film focuses on the love story between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (Marion Cottillard) It's also interesting to see the other gangsters of this time and how they relate to Dillinger and the criminal world.
Much has been made of Public Enemies being filmed on HD video, mostly complaints. I must say that at times, the picture looked amazing. The night sequences, especially looked beautifully slick and realistic. I loved the cinematography here. The cars, headlights, street lights, and everything looked fantastic. Other times, it doesn't look as good. It just felt as if something didn't look right. I'm not sure what to think about this.
One problem I had with this film would have to be the lack of character depth in many of the characters. At times, it seems as if we are expected to know and understand the characters before going to see the film because it is a real life story. But as a film, it could have developed the characters more to help us (and those who know nothing about Dillinger, his life, or Purvis and the FBI) understand them better. Another problem was some of the historical inaccuracies. Many things portrayed in the film, do not happen as they did in real life. Many sequences are just out of order. I know the filmmakers had to know about this and just tried to work it in as best as they could. It's not a documentary, it's a movie.
I really enjoyed Public Enemies. It's a solid crime drama and a good summer film. I understand expectations were through the roof, but that's a little hard to ask for. It's a really good film, but not quite a great one... The action is fun, the story is interesting. Maybe instead of being a very good film, it could have became a really great film if more was put into the characters? I'm not sure. It just felt as if something were missing. But who can knock a film for still being good?