Archive for July 9th, 2009

Johnny DeppPublic Enemies has been out for a week now and has been reviewed may times over so I will keep mine relatively brief.  First lets get one thing straight this is not a biographical film about John Dillinger.  It is set in a very small space of time from shortly after John Dillinger’s (Johnny Depp) parole in 1933 (after spending eight and half years in prison) until his death in 1934.  There is no back story other than a few pieces of information gleaned from conversations in the film.  There are no early life scenes and there are no flashbacks.  So if the film is not a biography what is it?  I really don’t want to call it a satire but don’t think there is a better word for it.  The film is an exploration of the myth and the iconic status of the depression era bank robber.  The people time didn’t know who he was other than what they saw in the newsreels and in the papers and that what the film is all about.  How the media created the myth and the man live/played upto it.    The film explores themes often seen in other Michael Mann films most notably the likable sympatric criminal.  He even gives Johny Depp the line “We’re here for the bank’s money not yours” previously spoken by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) in Heat. 

Christian BaleMarion CotillardSo what we get is a film that jumps directly into the action of a prison break followed by a twelve month crime spree of robbing banks and living the high life constantly being pursued by the FBI.  The agent in charge is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) a somewhat bumbling character lacking the charisma and panache of Dillinger although portrayed surprisingly sympathetically in this film.  It is during this time that he meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) who is in some ways the best thing about the film.  Although she isn’t given enough screen time to fully develop the character she does light up the screen with a performance that manages to be controlled and vivacious at the same time.  Some of the other characters are underdeveloped as well but this isn’t a problem this is all Dillinger.  

public enemiespublic enemies carsThe music is brilliant, combining older music including Blind Willie Johnson and Billie Holiday with newer music such as the Otis Taylor track used on the trailer.  Look out for Diana Krall as the nightclub singer singing Bye Bye Blackbird.  This is all held together by a great score by Elliot Goldenthal.  The production design is also first rate with fantastic sets, locations and costumes giving a real sumptuous feel to the film that is the perfect remedy for all the CGI rubbish that has been taking over our cinema screens all summer long.  This brings me on to my only slight criticism.  I am not convinced about is the use of digital video.  It obviously has its uses and I am sure it is the future of filmmaking but it is a little clinical and lacking warmth when compared to celluloid.  But if this is the price to pay for such a great film I for one can live with it. 

In conclusion it isn’t the best film of the year so far but it is certainly the best film of the summer by a comfortable distance.  With the new ten nomination system it should be a shoe in for a best picture nomination at the Oscars but it won’t win.  But then I have low expectations of an academy that can give a best picture Oscar to Breaveheart and a nomination to a talking pig while Heat got nothing.


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