Directed by Michael Mann
Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Channing Tatum
Release date: July 1, 2009
Michael Mann is one of our best modern masters when it comes to weaving elaborate and starkly realistic cinematic tales of cops and criminals. There is very little black and white in his world. The characters in Mann’s crime dramas who work on opposite sides of the law are always portrayed as equals, and often as shadows of one another. Instead of the musty pulp novels, mildewed comic books, and scratchy 16mm film prints that fuel the imagination of Quentin Tarantino, another filmmaker well versed in making virtuoso action films, Mann, like fellow filmmaking contemporary Martin Scorsese, finds his inspiration in the real-life exploits of the modern day outlaws and the law enforcement officials sworn to bring them in.
His big-screen crime stories (and the various classic television series he has been partly or fully responsible for, such as Miami Vice and Crime Story) are powered by an engine of ruthless intelligence and feelings of isolation and loneliness. In his films you could tell Mann’s sympathies often resided with the criminals instead of the police, who were usually portrayed as being ready and able to go beyond the limits of the law to nab their quarry, but Mann could not be accused of glorifying the criminal lifestyle. His thieves and assassins were coolly professional in their work but emotionally distant from the rest of the world. They had the world at their feet but never chanced enjoying the ill-gotten fruits of their labor for fear of breaking the carefully constructed code that reduced their risk of being arrested by the authorities or even cut down in a hail of gunfire. We liked them for who they were even if we could not condone what they did. Mann did not judge either. He just showed things for how they could be. At the end of his crime stories his criminal anti-heroes usually ended up dead or alone as a result of venturing outside their own limits to have a taste of life, and most importantly love.
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