Public Enemies shows what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be
The year is 1933. America is in the heart of the Great Depression. Gangsters have style. The Giants are still in New York. American automobiles are tops in the world. Bank robbers are legends. This is the setting of Michael Mann’s new film, Public Enemies. The film tells the story of how the FBI got their start during the booming crime wave of the 1930s as they try to take down notorious bank robbers John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum).
J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) pushes for the start of the FBI to help track down the bank robbers as they go from state to state in the Midwest robbing multiple banks. Despite being denied more money to start federal law enforcement, Hoover sets out on his plan to track down public enemy number one: John Dillinger. Hoover is impressed with the way FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) took down Pretty Boy Floyd, so he asks Purvis to lead the manhunt for Dillinger. Purvis readily agrees and the search is on.
In between robbing banks, Dillinger becomes a celebrity of sorts. The public loves him and sees him as a modern day Robin Hood, as he only steals the banks money, never taking money from the public. Dillinger lives a lavish lifestyle, enjoying, “baseball, movies, nice clothes, fast cars, and whiskey…” Along the way Dillinger meets and falls in love with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). Although reluctant as first, Billie joins John on his journey of back robberies.
What follows is an action packed ride full of bank robberies, gun fights, and prison breakouts that will have you glued to the screen from start to finish, most notably the gunfight at the Little Bohemia Lodge, which is quite possibly one of the best gunfight scenes I ever seen–especially in recent years. Mann has a way like no other of shooting scenes involving guns. They just seem so much more real with him calling the shots.
Basically, this is what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be. There’s enough action and violence to entertain the masses, but the violence is hardly the focus here, which is what makes this movie so great. Underneath all the action, is the incredible story of Dillinger and how he lived life for today rather than worrying about tomorrow. The story is wonderfully told with fantastic acting by some of the biggest names in the business. Depp is great as always, somehow managing to be charming while still being a bad guy; who else can pull that off?! Bale gives a solid performance, once again effortlessly covering up his British accent while playing the tough American FBI agent determined to hunt down Dillinger. While Depp and Bale share the majority of the screen time, the performances that really stand out are those of Cotillard and Crudup.
It’s amazing to think that Cotillard only spoke broken English before filming this movie, because it doesn’t show at all. She gives a stunning performance as the girl that steals Dillinger’s heart. With one Oscar already on her mantle, she appears to be destined to be a regular at Hollywood’s biggest award show. As fabulous as Cotillard was, in my opinion Crudup was even better. While his role isn’t a big one in terms of lines or screen time, it is a very important one in the story and Crudup shines as Hoover. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that Crudup isn’t a bigger name in the film industry, but hopefully co-starring with some of Hollywood’s biggest names and working with a big time director will change that and force the rest of the world to take notice.
With the Oscars increasing their best film nominations to ten this year, I expect this movie to be there along with possible individual nominations for Depp, Cotillard, and Mann for his directing. Overall, this is a beautifully filmed movie that will wow audiences. It’s definitely going to go down as a classic in my book. Go see it, I assure you it’s a million times better than Mann’s last film.