On the plane back from Iceland, I saw Public Enemies. I’d heard about it last year, when my book club considered reading a book about John Dillinger because it was coming out, and I remember really enjoying the posters for it, but overall, I’d more or less forgotten about it.
I’m glad it was showing on the plane, though, because while I don’t think it was a masterpiece, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The film follows John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) during his time after his first nine-year imprisonment. It begins with his plan to break his friends out of that jail, and continues to his death a year later. In between, we see him fall in love with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), rob several banks, and travel around the Midwest pursued by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) in fantastic clothes and cars.
The acting, despite some very cheesy lines, was pretty good, and I sort of enjoyed even those cheesy lines. Obviously no movie can cover all issues, and this one does really brush over women’s rights, and the media circus that seems to have been forming in a big way in this era, but I was able to forgive this while watching.
Overall, though, there was something really lovely and American about the film. The landscapes are both lush and barren, with enormous, empty apartments, gilded banks with real safes, and the omnipresent road that permeates both this movie and, I think, American culture. The costumes, also, are gorgeous, and even the simplest dresses and suits carry an air of glamour that just doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
The whole movie had the overall feel of a 1930s gangster flick, and given my love for all things 1919-1950, I enjoyed it quite a bit more than any other movie in recent memory. If you’re in the mood for a bit of a distraction, I’d say go ahead and rent Public Enemies. I can’t attest to whether it’s at all historically accurate or not, but it has some really beautiful scenes and feels appropriate for us right now.