Thursday, July 2, 2009

Public Enemies

I went to see Public Enemies, a film about J. Dillinger (I keep saying Salinger...) last night, on a whim. I'm a big fan of good gangster movies, and one can generally assume a movie with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale is going to be good. While the film itself was slightly inaccurate, they did a pretty good job, well excellent really, on certain aspects -- the capture and death scene at the Biograph, Dillinger's Robin Hood persona, etc.

The movie was almost entirely filmed with a shaky cam, which I found rather annoying. This is not because I dislike shaky cam (thought it was good in The Bourne Ultimatum and Cloverfield), but I felt in this movie, with all the violence and action already, it took away from the depth of character. Generally, one of the points of covering a famous story in film is really getting to the heart of a character or portraying him in a different light. Lucky then to have Johnny Depp, because I think the shaky cam took away from this. On top of this, where was the script for character development. It seems Bale's character, Pervis, gets more of a chance for development, while Dillinger is almost a flat character through 3/4 of the movie. This is Michael Mann we are talking about here though, even though he as done great biographical movies - The Aviator, Ali, Last of the Mohicans (not a biography, but arguably a set character nonetheless). I go back and forth.

Furthermore, this could have been a really beautiful film, but, again, this is disallowed for the most part by the filming method. There are, however, some great colours and shots near the end, sans shaky cam. I was especially pleased by Depp walking through the Chicago Police Dept. in rose colored glasses, and Bale in the white suit at the Biograph. Irony sells! (or is that sex sells... I can't remember...) If this were filmed in black and white, I'm not sure Mann could have redeemed himself. On a side note, it would have been interesting to see how it was filmed in black and white, light representing good and dark, evil. If I remember correctly, both Dillinger and Pervis are wearing white in the final scene together. I keep thinking about how much better this could have been with someone like Spielberg (think Schindler's List).

Finally, I don't know if I was just more deaf than usual, but I had the hardest time hearing the script? Anyone else? Strange.

On a pleasant note, Johnny Depp is really a phenomenal actor (and much better looking than J. Dillinger, but that is neither here nor there... :P) and they were lucky to have him for this part. I am unsure another actor could have done so much with so little. Speaking about the movie Depp said
"When I was about nine or ten years old, I had a fascination with John Dillinger - probably not a healthy one - but I think it was something about the twinkle in his eye. There was something mischievous about him and it intrigued me...
In terms of taking on the role - the guy was 'Public Enemy Number One' but if you think about it, he was never an enemy of the public, ever, so that intrigued and challenged me..."

Depp also revealed that the character's Indiana roots helped him find a voice for an infamous American of whom no audio recordings exist.

He added: "With a guy like John Dillinger and where we were in 1933 - which is not unlike where we are now - the banks were sort of the enemies and were taking the knees out from everyone, people's lives were being ripped from them.
"And John Dillinger arrives as someone who's spent ten years in prison for some youthful, drunken, ignorant crime and arrives in the ultimate existential arena and says: 'I'm gonna stand up against these people'....I think for me what's fascinating is the guy who says: 'I ain't taking it. I don't care who you are, I ain't gonna take it'."...

Here's a random piece of trivia: I read somewhere that Depp actually got to wear the trousers that Dillinger was wearing the night he was shot... nice.

I will have to see it again of course. Over all, I think it was worth seeing, despite my whining :) And hopefully I will be able to find some more screen shots once more people have seen it :)

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