The gangster film presented as a psychological study on loneliness, futility and the changing world; with the internal thoughts and feelings of characters, their inadequacies and uncertainties, being suggested through sound and image. Mann introduces a new visual grammar to the American cinema; the fly on the wall made epic. The most significant "digital film" since Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou Chou.
Mann is aware that films say more of the time in which they're made than the time in which they're set. Public Enemies is a g̶a̶n̶g̶s̶t̶e̶r̶ film electrified by a modern digital aesthetic to the point that it's not a costume drama, but a piece of humanity and our innate attachment to images/symbols of ourselves. It's action, romance, and death as expressions of the collective ideas we represent. Life is image.
The origins, developments, & purposes of the image. Life is a prison: Mann's initial thesis. But no concept is easily manageable here; counteraction abounds. Depp is Depp & Dillinger at all times. By the end, this amalgamation of man & image faces a supreme image-maker &, in a moment of absolute transcendence, fully grasps how an image relates to a society which requires forms. Figural cinema of the highest order.
An ultra-stylish (although perhaps too digital at times) take on the gangster film with performances that aren't rooted in cliché or homage and cinematography that borders on documentary realism. The beautiful bursts of gunfire and highly detailed set pieces are just two reasons to revisit this film. Additionally, the soundtrack was well-suited and the climax was woeful and surprising.
A modern masterpiece full of sweeping romanticism and existential dread, and Michael Mann's best crime film since "Heat." The digital photography creates utter transparency; the impression is not that these are actors dressed up in period clothing and driving antique cars, but that we are witnessing a window into history itself. The Little Bohemia sequence must be the best shootout I've seen in the past 10 years.
Highlight of the movie for me is Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson, that man is a goddamn chameleon. A rather simplistic, old-fashioned and Hollywoodesque screenplay clashes somewhat with Mann's detail-focused, crisp and distinctively modern directorial style, here. Not on the same level as "Miami Vice," "Blackhat" or "Collateral," but it has its moments.
**1/2 Good movie but no sooner seen than forgotten. In fact, who needs nowadays another film about Dillinger, Capone, Baby Face Nelson or any of these bad guys Hollywood seems to worship ? The scene with Marion Cotillard being carried by Christian Bale to the bathroom is one of the most ridiculous scenes I've seen in months. But, fortunately, as I said before, I don't mind because I've already forgotten this film.