Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie of the Week – Public Enemies

This week’s movie: Public Enemies (2009)

John Dillinger is public enemy number one after a string of headline-grabbing bank robberies during the 1930s; however, the Feds are closing in around him and other notable criminals like Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. Melvin Purvis has been tasked with heading up the Chicago office with the specific goal of capturing or killing Dillinger. The two men play a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Public Enemies is the latest film from American auteur Michael Mann (at least until his cyber thriller Blackhat comes out in 2015), master of the sprawling crime drama. Mann worked with a superb group on the film including: composer Elliot Goldenthal, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, and production designer Nathan Crowley.

The film has a phenomenal cast, headlined by Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The supporting ensemble features David Wenham, Jason Clarke, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Rory Cochrane, Carey Mulligan (although, she is in it for maybe a second), Branka Katic, Emilie de Ravin, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, John Ortiz, Shawn Hatosy, Stephen Graham, Stephen Lang, Lili Taylor, and Leelee Sobieski.

Michael Mann has made a number of fantastic crime dramas – Thief, Heat, Collateral, and Miami Vice (highly underrated). Public Enemies is his first period crime drama, though he has made a few great period dramas (notably The Last of the Mohicans). What works exceptionally well about his films, Public Enemies included, is that he garners wonderful character-driven performances in worlds that feels very gritty and realistic. Some of that has to do with his collaborations with Dante Spinotti, whose photography is stunning and feels naturalistic. He is also the best at shooting gun fights. His staging, photography, and sound design are second to none (Heat probably has the best gun fight ever filmed). In some ways, Public Enemies feels a lot like Heat. The themes are the same in many ways. And, both feature great action set pieces. The film was mildly received upon its release in 2009 and has still not really found an audience, but it is magnificent. Depp and Bale are fantastic and it is visually dazzling. I think it is a must-see for fans of Mann’s work and those who enjoy grand crime dramas. It is probably the best gangster film of the last five years (my three favorite films of 2009 are Inglourious Basterds, Up, and Public Enemies to give you an idea of the esteem I hold for this film).

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

No comments:

Post a Comment