Public Enemies (2009)

On the face of it Public Enemies appears to have all the ingredients of a good film. There is the promise of Michael Mann whose film Heat, which I recently re-watched, is one of the most iconic thrillers of the 1990’s. Combine that with the talented Johnny Depp and a big signing in Christian Bale for the supporting role and you have a pretty potent recipe for a decent film, at the very least. I entered with reasonable expectations, however as time slowly went by I was left feeling tired and a little ripped off. After the gunpowder residue dissipates what you are left with is a half decent story ruined by some very basic flaws that a veteran director like Mann should really not be making.

Johnny Depp is John Dillinger

Johnny Depp is John Dillinger

Let’s start with the positives; Public Enemies is gorgeous to look at. Mann has adopted some cutting edge HD camera technology for PE; for example he has combined Sony F23s with DigiZoom lenses to provide a much sharper image than that of his other recent efforts like the grainy Miami Vice. The new HD quality cameras more than justified some of the electrifying and jarring tommy-gun shootouts and some of the close-ups looked spectacular. The striking detail and general look of the film is definitely PE’s strongest area. There were also some very interesting scenes including one hair raising moment in the police station, however the opening scene in a local state prison is by far the most superior of the film; it was brutal, exciting and everything a Michael Mann film should be. Johnny Depp is his usual charismatic, cool self who brings a lot of charm to the Dillinger character where a lot of others would fail. However, these positives are few and far between.

Unfortunately, despite having a decent storyline, this film fails on many levels that not even PE’s beautiful looks and the occasional good scenes are enough to warrant redemption. The first thing I have to mention purely out of sheer annoyance is the shoddy camera work of Michael Mann. It seemed for much of the movie Michael had been directing whilst riding a washing machine, as there were some needlessly shaky camera movements. I considered Miami Vice to be pretty bad in that respect but it seems now Mann is trying so very hard to keep the audience interested by resorting to clumsy, jumping action shots. There are also some useless, whooshing, tracking shots that are a regular fixture of the film straight from the off; these are equally off-putting.  Depp’s performance as John Dillinger is below par of his usual standard, but that is mainly due to the terribly clichéd, Bogart-esque dialogue. Despite this he still retains his usual charm and charisma that make his characters so watchable. Depp does have his moments in PE so fans will certainly not be disappointed; we all know it’s a stop-gap between now and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which looks very interesting so far. The rest of the cast tend to blend in with the furniture and Christian Bale produces a typically wooden performance, topped off with a particularly dodgy Southern accent. Marion Cotillard was unconvincing as Billie Frechette and the onscreen chemistry between her and Depp was almost non-existent. PE actually managed to stretch out to 2hrs 20mins, about an hour of which is pretty pointless. You might find yourself drifting off in stages and focusing on other things such as: Where did Emile De Ravin go? There are also major problems buried deep within the core of the plot that were obvious pieces of poor writing. Some characters disappear without explanation (Like De Ravin), there are massive plot chasms and pointless scenes that serve no purpose to the story whatsoever. Considering Michael Mann is treading in familiar territory with the gangster genre this is a very poor effort; top-notch gangster flick this is not.

Seen as I have given PE a short but brutal slating I feel I should return to find some more positives about it, but I just can’t. It isn’t a film I’d reccomend to anyone as it fails on so many practical levels. PE had potential to be a pretty decent film and had all the right ingredients but Michael Mann just tried way too hard with this film and as a result it seemed muddled and even amatuerish. I can see the direction Mann was going with this one and in some ways it’s not a bad film but all those little niggles and poor performances almost across the board pretty much knock this film into mediocrity for me. Public Enemies has become like so many other forgettable and disappointing big budget movies of 2009, such as Transformers 2 and Wolverine, that have made this year a pretty bad year for film in general. Hopefully Mann can up the ante for his next film and regain his former flair with the action thriller genre.

David

2_stars

David

I am forced to agree with most of what Dave says above, but having had the film sink in slightly longer I think I’ve grown to appreciate what was actually a success in this movie. It is still however, a complete juxtaposition in places between the really really good and the really rather bad. The first thing you notice is definitely how crisp this film looks. It’s one of the most aesthetically striking live action movies I’ve seen in a long time. Everything on screen is beautifully captured and the level of detail in some of the shots really shows why HD is the cutting edge. Grating against this throughout the first half hour however is some camerawork that feels like it’s bordering on the amateur. I just didn’t understand the choice for some the shots. In places you could only just make out what could have been a well framed action shot as the camera was zoomed in and shaking like an upset raver having a fit. My assumption is Mann is trying to suck us into the action but until the second half of the film I just felt a little disorientated and annoyed because there were scenes passing by I could clearly tell were good but couldn’t see they were.

In contrast to Dave I felt that Depp was his usual enigmatic self and was the biggest success of this movie outside of the visuals. Dillinger was originally going to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio when the movie started development but the writers strike forced film Shantaram (2011) to be pushed back, giving Depp the time to fit PE into his schedule; and thank goodness it did. Without Depp’s peerless ability to infuse a character with a certain charm and roguish wit Dillinger could have come off as arrogant and annoying. Depp however keeps the character the right side of favourable and allows us to side with this stylish Robin Hood.

His delivery of some lines I think pushed them just beyond parody and I have to admit allowing myself a smile at comebacks such as when Bale‘s Mr Purvis asks “What keeps you up at night Mr Dillinger?”, and Dillinger looks up and perfectly seriously replies “Coffee”. Even the more saccharine lines like “I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars… and you. What else you need to know?” are just about saved by Depp’s cool as he plays his ‘boyish good looks’ card over his more famous ‘sexy weirdo’ facade. Mann even fits in a nod to the aforementioned Heat borrowing a line directly when Dillinger see’s a customers money on the counter during one of the bank job scenes and remarks “We’re here for the bank’s money, not yours.” (originally said by De Niro) which is a nice touch.

Ultimately this is a good film ruined by it’s many minor niggles. There are just too many things that build up to stop this being a completely fulfilling movie. I was frustrated by the camera in the beginning, bored by the slightly pedestrian plot in the middle and by the end left a little underwhelmed by the experience as a whole. There is a good movie in here, some excellent scenes dotted about and stunning attention to detail (a woodland gunfight was filmed at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, WI which is the actual location where the gunfight between Dillinger and the FBI took place in 1934). I personally enjoyed the music and sound effects (including some exhilarating gunshots) though admittedly poor score and I’d recommend seeing it in the cinema purely as on a less detailed screen and sound system you’d miss half of what makes this movie watchable. Sadly though in the end, regardless of the screen size, the criminals here might just leave you feeling as ripped off as the banks.

Doug

Doug

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13 responses to “Public Enemies (2009)”

  1. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    First of all, the site looks really good. Keep it up!

    I considered Miami Vice to be pretty bad in that respect but it seems now Mann is trying so very hard to keep the audience interested by resorting to clumsy, jumping action shots.

    As you know, we disagree, and I think this might be one of the larger points, specifically looking at PE on the Mann continuum as well as his intention for the audience.

    I believe Mann has become more interested in expressing moods than he is in making a compact, tight story-driven film. There’s an intentional switch from chain-of-events to series-of-moments (no surprise there are many who compare Miami Vice to Wong Kar-Wai). The editing from sequence to sequence is meant to be jarring, as I think he is now trying to get across what one critic termed ‘the ever present’.

    I’m not saying that everything in PE works, but I think your complaints are off base since what you’ve found to be ‘shoddy’ is actually intentional. The basic story is well-worn territory for Mann (he is an auteur that proves that the filmmaker makes the same film over and over again), and while he loves to continue to explore the themes of individuals and what their freedom and ‘happiness’ means to them in an indifferent world, he’s now more interested in evoking those arguments through form and image rather than story. In a lot of ways, PE is there to de-emphasize the period (DV, few establishing shots, no clear sense of story time) as a way to get futher into the character of Dillinger. Just to compound the difficulty, Dillinger himself is struggling to find himself as we are trying to understand him.

    Of course, for these reasons I wouldn’t really recommend the film to an average movie-goer expecting Depp in Gangster-land thrills. The context with which the film is viewed is very important. So viewed as an action-thriller, it does fail to a degree in those categories (though the shoot-outs are pretty great). But as his intentions are different, I don’t count that as a failing. Matt Zoller Seitz described Mann brilliant:

    “His films often play like Samuel Fuller by way of Michelangelo Antonioni — violent tone poems exploring the angst of machismo and the impossibility of deep and lasting connection by way of dreamy montage, hypnotic music and disorienting, off-center compositions.”

    From that perspective, I’d replace ‘shoddy’ with, at the very least, ‘experimental’.

  2. the20 says :

    Thanks for your comment, I’ll do my best to answer.

    Mann is indeed trying to be ‘experimental’, but emphasis on the word ‘try’. His ideas are good, especially that of the ‘ever present’. However my point is that, although his intentions are good, he tries far too hard to achieve a narrative driven by form and in his experimenting that it has placed to much emphasis on the wrong things. One example his Dillinger’s relationship with Billie. Because Mann is continuously jumping the narrative we never get a sense of chemistry between the two characters. The relationship is the most important thing in Dillinger’s life but because Mann disrupts the narrative and plants his focus on certain events that we don’t get a proper back story and can’t see the relationship develop. He places his emphasis in all the wrong areas; he tries far too hard to develop an experimental style that he fails to present some of the most basic storylines and themes of the film.

    His technique was not ‘disorientating’ or ‘different’, it was just confusing and needless. For me he failed, not in his intentions, but in the most basic of ways; to communicate his ideas to the audience.

  3. the20 says :

    Also, the film lacked so much feeling. As I said before, because Mann only focused on certain ‘moments’ it lacks some essential themes, such as the build up of the relationship between Billie and Dillinger. At some points I just couldn’t connect with the characters – mainly because 90% of them had two lines before being shot or disappear with little or no explaination. This film requires more narrative and has to have some focus on characterisation and story but we just don’t get that in PE.
    You also claim that people viewing it as a thriller is wrong, but 50% of the film is rip-roaring gunfights. He places a lot of emphasis on the action scenes, which are naturally good, but again confuses the viewer as to what kind of film they’re watching.
    I think people are over-crediting Mann because of his technique and not focusing on the basic aspects of story-telling and characterisation. The comparison to Wong Kar-Wai is justified, but WKW’s stories suit that style wheras Mann’s do not.

  4. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    I think you’re criticizing the film for what it’s not, and was never intended to be, instead of looking at the film as it is. There really isn’t that much action in the film, and while it is there because it’s the story, the film isn’t intending to be a classical style thriller, nor is it trying to be a traditional period piece.

    The lack of traditional development of Billie and Dillinger is, I believe, a way to emphasize the nature of Dillinger’s thinking the same way the lack of narrative does. The aspects that you found lacking (story cohesion, back story, normal development) are all NOT their specifically to make a point about the character and how he views his existence and his future (or how he doesn’t view it). I think it is engaging an audience on a different level, because he’s not at all interested in spoon-feeding the classic elements we all expect in a period-piece true-story romantic gangster fantasy action thriller epic. He wants us to consider the images and the actions and come up with our interpretations.

    Mann was always welcomed by mainstream critics, but his last two films have divided them. Those that do embrace him are BECAUSE of his story-telling and characterisation, and the way he’s finding new, non-traditional ways to communicate his ideas through experimentation with the form.

    The comparison to Wong Kar-Wai is justified, but WKW’s stories suit that style wheras Mann’s do not.

    I don’t see why Mann’s don’t. Because they’re about men with guns?

  5. the20 says :

    I have to say you put up a good arguement but you said it yourself in an earlier post – the film alienates the audience, and I don’t think it’s deliberate. I personally find it very one dimensional and lacking in character. I think you are confusing poor storytelling with minimalist narrative.
    The lack of narrative and development of the characters is mainly down to poor writing as opposed to a deliberate attempt to present ‘Dillinger’s thinking’. It does anything but express the mood of the film and sucks a lot of emotion from the characters – not that there was a lot of life in them anyway.
    WKW focuses on human relationships and on character development wheras Mann does not. One problem I find with Mann is that his stories are very straight-forward and conventional; this makes them a little dull in places. I nearly fell asleep in PE, as did many other fellow cinema goers… that is not a good sign

  6. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    I think the aspects that cause certain sections of the audience to be alienated to be intentional, and I’d cite the trajectory of his films as evidence. I also must say, if you put the same audience who went to see PE in front of In the Mood for Love, or even his cheerier, zippier earlier work like Chunking Express, they’d fall asleep pretty fast.

    I’m interested though, what do you mean by his stories are straight-forward and conventional? And what would make a film not straight forward or conventional?

    • the20 says :

      Right, I’m wading in on this titanic battle! That’s one hell of a question there, there are so many ways to argue how you make a film unconventional you could literally go on for days siting everything from non-linear narrative (aka Memento) to mixing live action and animation (aka Who Framed Roger Rabbit). But I’m not going to get into that.

      I find it pretty interesting that this entire argument has re-enforced my softening on my original opinion of PE. As the film settled with me I felt I actually enjoyed it more than I’d thought, leading to my slighty more positive review. The fact that it’s promoted such an argument with the two of you struck to either side confirms (for me) that ultimately this must be a good movie, cause at the end of the day a good movie should promote discussion, and should promote conflicting viewpoints!

      I’m still not fully swayed by the camera argument. It got better as the film went on, but irrelevant as to whether it’s bad camerawork or Mann is really looking to achieve something with it, for the first half at least, it spoils the film somewhat. For me whether a directer is making the biggest of statements, or luckily stumbles onto something cool really takes a backseat to the effect that has on the movie in the end. In this case, it had a negative effect for me.

      Part of what makes great movies great, is the combination of the art and the meaning behind it. You can have a beautiful film with no substance, or an ugly movie full of meaning, but the pièce de résistance will always lie with the mother who can bare a child of both brain and beauty. Mann knocks the beauty on the head, there are numerous ways to describe this film from an aesthetic standpoint and almost the same can be said for the rest. There is good characterization and there is good story dotted about here. But dotted it is.

      I take on board the point that “He wants us to consider the images and the actions and come up with our interpretations.” and wonder if Mann is pushing his ideas far enough? The film is presented so cleanly with much of the traditional props of back story and interpersonal relationship left adrift, so if Mann truly is the auteur, and we address this work with consideration for the similarity that has come before it, I wonder if he has left himself in danger of people feeling shortchanged because they have filled the blanks with the tired stereotypes that have come before? It’s then leaving the narrative drab as it contains nothing new because Mann hasn’t provided them enough of his own vision to allow them to make more of a mental leap themselves. For example if my knowledge of “gangster” style story lines such as this one, and of Manns work in general is not that expansive what am I left to fill the void that Mann leaves with his unconventional narrative?

      If he wants to experiment, and push new ground in how he tells his stories, then go for it. There are too few directors doing that. Mann is definatly going for mood in this, I agree with that much. Some of the shots are crafted so specifically to create that, which I think accounts for some of the glaring differences to Dillinger’s real life. Ultimately the real question really becomes, what mood did he end up putting over? For Dave, it was clearly coloured by a lot of boredom. I understand where he’s coming from, but at the same time can appreciate a lot of what Mann has done, I just don’t think he tried to do enough. Of course, whether he’d have been allowed to do more…

  7. the20 says :

    Well Doug you make some very good points and I am starting to agree with you with the fact that this film has caused so much debate, and that can only be a good thing. I was reconsidering softening my review a little but I still think this film is so underwhelming and dull.
    I think conventional was the wrong word to use, repetitive is more appropriate. Mann tends to tell the same story he did in Heat; Dillinger even quotes De Niro, as Doug states in his review. It’s a fairly standard story that has been fiddled with and made clumsily executed by Mann and didn’t go far enough to make us connect with it and keep the audience interested. You claimed yourself Doug that you were losing interest somewhat halfway through the film.
    Some of the shots didn’t create any mood at all; I think Mann’s actual directing is getting unnecessary credit for the look of the film when it is really down to the vastly improved quality of the new HD cameras.
    I tried so hard to like this film but alas it just wasn’t good enough and didn’t justify the price of the cinema ticket.

  8. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    Good weigh in, Doug.

    First of all, I think Mann is notable amongst the A-list for his use of the HD camera. Films like Superman Returns are shot on HD, but the directors go some way to hide the fact that it is video. Soderbergh’s Che films are a more recent example. They are using the latest in HD technology to make it look more like film, whilst Mann is doing the exact opposite. He could use HD to make the film look less-video, but he wants to emphasize the videoness. It isn’t the improved quality of the camera, but rather his use of the medium that gives the film its distinct look.

    Secondly, I think it’s notable that you’re both using phrases like “dotted around” to describe the storytelling and narrative, because you feel some bits are good and some bits aren’t. Now whether you liked the bits or didn’t is not really important here. Personally, I think it’s amazing how every scene was functional, whether it be moving forward what plot there is, or establishing character, or indeed contrasting established characters with others (Nelson, for instance). Obviously neither of you felt that way, but the disjointed, episodic nature was evident to the both of you. I think this is intentional, based on his previous film(s), and I’ll try to briefly explain the function.

    Conventional narrative requires a certain seamless flow. One scene leads to another, and we as the audience expect a logical narrative thread to carry us through. We see what happens, we want to see what follows, etc… This is achieved through a variety of means, such as editing, scene placement, and even establishing shots and other forms of exposition. Mann is working to deny the audience these things. We don’t realize they’ve gone to Florida until halfway through the horse racing scene, nor do we fully realize we are in Arizona when he’s captured, nor do we understand exactly how he was found. We’re never sure of the timeline, nor where Billie is at certain times etc… This strips away the flow, that propulsion that drives the narrative forward. The reason for this, I believe and as I have mentioned already, is to emphasize the moment. The existence. Dillinger just is in this moment and in the next. He allows Purvis and Billie to BE. As an aside, I think it’s amazing achievement to pack so much information and character and yet still give the film a slow, somewhat meandering pace. Mann’s interest lies in the aforementioned ever-present. The larger character function of this is that it mirrors Dillinger’s own view on life. He quite explicitly has no plans for his future, which is juxtaposed with the meticulous planning and work he puts into his bank jobs and his prison escapes.

    This is, of course, until the end. If you’ve read my entry on the my blog, you’ll know what I felt about the final sequence. Dillinger doesn’t know why he does what he does, not really. He has no sense of longevity because he can’t conceive of long term happiness, only the thrill of the moment. Except for at the end, when he goes to the cinema. He sees a character based somewhat on him, and that he certainly identifies with, on screen. As reflected through art, he gains a greater appreciation of who he is and what he does. Add to that he finally realizes how much Billie means to him (his crying in the car a bit earlier was the first sense of how emotionally involved he was, but here it finally makes sense to him). This leads to the scene with the most tension in the film. Previously we watched him work. He was carrying out plans to rob and escape. Here the film finally allows us a scene of tension, because now Dillinger has a real stake in it. His earlier confrontation with mortality (the guy dying as he’s being dragged along the car), and the subsequent refusal to contemplate the future (which will always mean death), have come to a head. He finally understands the gravity of life, and as the character has existential weight within himself, the film turns. There’s real tension in the shot composition and the editing. The final switch to 35mm is almost an exegetic comment on both the story and the medium. Only when the tragic possibilities are understood within the character does the film become a classic tragedy.

    Thirdly, a note on the repetition. Directors are who deemed ‘auteurs’ by the critics often make the same film over and over again (Hitchcock, for one). What’s important here is the different ways in which the director goes about it. Mann has themes he repeats over and over again, whether it be in a cops and robbers film, or a historical epic set in the American colonies, or a tense drama about a journalist and a whistle-blower.

    His films always tends to be about individuals and freedom, and how their desire for that freedom (and the happiness with which they equate it) or brought down by a corrupt world, or in some cases, the code which makes them successful within that world. Thief and Heat are about outsiders who have a clear idea(l) of happiness, and how the institutions (police/government/corporations/mob) of capitalism will forever deny them that happiness. PE is about a man, as I’ve already said, who hasn’t figured out what that happiness is. He’s figuring it out, slowly but surely. The fact that Mann is now using the form itself to such a brazen degree to emphasize these themes (as opposed to the story and dialogue with some subtle visuals to underscore) is exciting and, indeed, different. I’m not sure if either of you have seen Martin Scorsese’s Personal Journey Through American Cinema, but two of the sections are called “director as smuggler” and “director as iconoclast”. The former category tends to deal with the way directors would sneak in important themes, whether they be political or existential, into genre pictures (gangster movies, westerns, etc…). The latter category, the iconoclast, are those directors that defy conventional norms to get their point across (Kubrick would be an example). I think we’re seeing Mann make that transition, from accomplished smuggler to out-and-out iconoclast. So while Heat was thrilling and accessible, it still managed to get his ideas across. His ideas, however, are much more complicated now, and as such, the formal mode of delivery has become much more difficult and demanding for the audience.

    I think your reviews and your thoughts are very perceptive, and I think you’ve both given an excellent summation of why the general movie-going public wouldn’t like this film (certainly why I wouldn’t recommend it to the casual film-watcher). I also totally respect your feelings in regards to how you don’t think it worked. I really just want to emphasize the deliberate nature and the why of it, and how you might want to look at it again if you ever get stuck seeing it a second time.

    • the20 says :

      I have to disagree with the point about liking it, whether I like what Mann has done has everything to do with it. It could be the most technically proficient story every shot, if I don’t like it, then it’s still a failure to me.

      Although I didn’t think so here, I don’t think that every scene in a film should necessarily be directly functional, it shouldn’t need to try that hard. There should be a certain degree of non-functional breathing space given over to the viewer to engage with their own imprint on what they’re viewing. If you make every single moment of a movie geared toward putting across what you have to say, what you think about a character or their motivations or lack thereof you rob the viewer of a critical emotive interaction with both the characters individually and the film as a whole. So yes, while a completely functional film may be a feat, I’m not convinced it deserves the reverence you have given it.

      Forgiving the somewhat patronising tone of your point about conventional narrative, I felt your explanation was a little simplistic. The flow of narrative need not be merely tired to its conventionality. Although I didn’t find the narrative in PE entirely enthralling, I felt flowed quite well through the piece. This is not to say the narrative itself in terms of how it was constructed wasn’t disjointed, as clearly and deliberately it was, but this in itself leads it to a different type of flow from a more typically told story.

      There are certainly many devices Mann uses to perpetuate this ‘ever-present’ feeling but I feel you’re overanalysing some of it. The lack of obvious realisation of geography for example, I didn’t feel that jarred by any means, I just don’t think we are in a time where the audience require spoon fed the every facet of detail. We can accept movement without specific explanation if this suits the higher function of the story or character. You rightly point out the level of detail he packs in the movie and this supersedes the need for spoon fed narrative to a point. Not long before his death, D.W. Griffith said “What’s missing from movies nowadays is the beauty of the moving wind in the trees” which I feel illustrates my point. Mann captures the world, the ‘moment’ enough to not require all the larger details. Like in Ali, when Malcolm X is shot you know is still alive as as he is rifled with bullets as you can see him blink. That’s the type of detail that transcends traditional narrative as it’s almost a narrative of it’s own. But in order to pull that off it needs to speak to something, the balance of form providing function and function providing form needs to sit well and it is here I felt Mann didn’t quite succeed. There needs to be the message, the emotional connection. The more pedestrian portions of narrative and complete lack of work in some area’s (The only thing Mann allows Purvis and Billie to BE is one-dimensional) failed to fully bridge the gap between smuggler and iconoclast (yes I have seen it) for me, but I applaud the attempt.

      Finally, I actually feel you’ve done Mann an injustice in suggesting Dillinger’s revelation doesn’t come until the climactic cinema scene. While this is certainly the point where it touches base and is fully embraced, for me these things were really brought home during the scene in the police station. This was my favourite scene as I felt the first moment of real tension was actually here. For me Dillinger finally connected himself with life at this point. He could see his entire life laid out for him meticulously on boards, his every move characterised, everyone who knows him, knew him, alive and now dead, because of him. The [Deceased] stamp on the photos and the pictures of Billie, which was critically without that stamp. For the first time he realised that that fact meant something to him and that maybe there was more to life and more to him. For possibly the first time he saw a future and then, upon his death, it was that future he sought to call out for. The cinema scene allows us to soak in these revelations and for us to take what we’ve absorbed and fully connect with Dillinger in a way we hadn’t been allowed to do until that point, just as he is killed off. That in itself is a device used on us are we are forced to be in the moment with Dillinger as it’s the one moment we the audience truly have ‘with’ him. It’s largely why I thought the film improved towards the end, because the things you’ve painstakingly gone to point out were deliberate by Mann finally click the way the should. If they had done that front the start, this truly would have been an undeniable work. Maybe in the future he’ll placate us all.

      • the20 says :

        Well wasn’t going to say anything about the big explaination of conventional narrative Doug, but i agree. You missed the point Matt; we’re not saying it should have followed conventional narrative, we’re saying that the way Mann constructs his disjointed narrative is not effective enough. I’m not complaining because of the dotted storyline, he just didn’t do enough to put his themes across to the ‘general movie-going public’ – who are just as capable in understanding films.
        Doug, I agree that films have to have a balance between technical profiency and entertainment which PE sadly lacks.
        I was still completely underwhelmed by the film and find that although Mann did have some good themes but it just falls very flat and just isn’t the compelling story it should be.

        Dave

  9. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    First of all, apologies if the tone came off as patronizing. I didn’t intend it as such.

    I don’t think I missed the point about narrative, considering the number of complaints you’ve made (these might have been coming from Dave mostly) about that specifically. I’ll concede that in bashing out that rambling comment I did forget to address certain issues (standard narrative would allow us to develop an emotional attachment, which is lacking through most of the film, though for me that is a good thing).

    You make good points, Doug, especially regarding the visit to the police station. Also, as I said, the film isn’t perfect, and I think you’re right about Purvis. There are moments of development (his uncomfortableness with the torture), but I don’t think he gets across what he wants to as fully as he intends. With Billie I tend to forgive it, because I think Cotillard gives her some nice moments, but as in most of Mann’s work, the women exist in relation to the men, as opposed to being full-blooded characters in their own right.

    Again, if the movie didn’t work for you, it didn’t work, and that would count it as a failure. I would just say that, from the original reviews, and some of the subsequent comments, there seemed to be a desire for a certain type of film, or at least an expectation of how this type of film should be done, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. Plus I felt the need to balance out the ‘Mann isn’t all that interesting’ with over-adulation, though I have to say that I don’t think there are many directors, in Hollywood, at least, that have built up such an impressive and cohesive body of work. In that sense, it’s hard to not take this film as a part of a whole.

    If nothing else, the film gives an awful lot to chew on, as this discussion has clearly shown. Good show all around!

  10. chiaroscurocoalition says :

    forgot to close off italics. format FAIL.

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