Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Handheld for the 30s

Michael Mann's Public Enemies tries to go somewhere really interesting but doesn't quite make it. Johnny Depp is John Dillinger, the 30s American bank robber, being pursued by the FBI (Christian Bale, mainly). Unfortunately there isn't enough of a relationship between the two sides, no communication that adds a personal edge to the struggle. Admittedly, the only time Dillinger would be talking to the FBI would be when he was being arrested, but they could have worked something out. The only interesting relationship in the film is that of Dillinger and his girlfriend Billie, but the film doesn't put much emphasis on that. These faults don't make it a bad film though, it's enjoyable enough.

I'm glad Mann decided to stick with his digital handheld style, even for a 30s gangster picture. It might not look old-fashioned but I doubt life really happened in smooth Steadicam back then (I'm only guessing). A story like this should be rough, it should have energy. Sometimes modern techniques are better, even if they ruin the nostalgic sheen. I will defend handheld camera work until the end. Or at least until I change my mind about it.


  1. Just saw the film "The Fall" which didn't interest me that much till I watched the director's commentary. It involved working out a film from the lead actor's developing telling a story to the five-year-old lead actress. Fascinating - I mean the film itself is a glorious mess - well, let me know if you see it at some point.