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Supporting Actress (Marion Cotillard)

Theatrical Release Date: 07/01/2009
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup

Give me 5 minutes and I could visit John Dillinger. He’s buried in an Indianapolis cemetery that’s the fourth largest cemetery in the country. It’s right down the street in a very inconspicuous grave. I digress.

I always look forward to another Michael Mann film. When I heard that it was about Dillinger and starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, I was excited. However, something about the trailer didn’t rub me right and I couldn’t put my finger on it until later.

Being within such proximity to Dillinger’s birthplace and grave, it got a lot of attention leading up to the opening night. No other movie this year had seen so many unconnected people that I know going to see the same film on opening night. Not “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen“, Not “Up“, Not “Star Trek“, Not “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” …

Anyway, enough build up. What is this movie? Is it a history piece? Is it an action film? Is it a biography? Is it another good Michael Mann film? Yes – but only so much so in each and every case.

The acting was pretty good and convincing, but let’s face it … This is one of those casts that it’d be hard to make a bad movie with.

Johnny Depp is working without eyeliner or his BFF Tim Burton, but he certainly has that overconfidence that he seems to portray in the big budget films. Bale is playing second fiddle, but doing it well. The surrounding cast is a bit staggering in numbers and acting talent that does very well in this movie … Among many others: Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Rory Cochrane, Lili Taylor, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski, and wait for it… Stephen Dorff (yeah, he’s not dead – who knew) …

The story is tough just because of the number of players, but Mann pulls it through with some historical twisting to make it a more formulaic film. In the end it works. Especially if you know less about Dillinger as most probably do.

The production element that seemed to be the most memorable was the sound. Much like the massive street shootout in “Heat”, this movie has more than a few scenes where the audio really brought you as close as a movie can to hearing a feeling a gunfight.

My problems with the film have to do with the history and some of the technical nature of how the movie was made.

The history being changed to make a movie more audience friendly is just fine. I expect it. I just think in this case that a few more minutes devoted to the depression would go a long way in showing the social empathy that Dillinger was a benefactor of because he targeted the banks (and not the customers). A more accurate portrayal of his arrest in Arizona would have made for good scenes and possibly a little bit of levity. But maybe they told Mann that he had to keep it less than two and a half hours for a change (it clocked in at 140 minutes).

The manner in which the film was made was what bothered me in the trailer, and really bothered me throughout the film. It was shot in purely digital means without the right post processing, and a heavy reliance on non-steady camera work. Colors were muted, contrast was lacking, noise was evident in some dark scenes, it was a bit too jittery at times, and it lacked the richness that I’d come to expect from Mann’s films like “Collateral”, “Heat”, and “Miami Vice” (say what you will, it was shot very well). I see that there was excess resolution, but it didn’t feel like I wanted. If this approached the quality of “Road to Perdition” I would have quickly given this a 4 out of 5. And wait… This was a historical, period piece – shouldn’t it have been film over digital anyway? But I’m a film geek that’s had to stare at elements of video production.

So, should you go see it? I think so. It’s not one of Mann’s best, but it is more than good enough. For now it’s just a 3 out of 5, but it may mature into a 4 with time and/or additional footage on the DVD.