Michael Mann directed one of the best bank-robbery movies of the recent past, getting Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro to put in one of their last good performances. So when I saw the preview of Public Enemies I was expecting another cops-and-robbers story with a heavy dose of action. Instead what I saw was a fine movie that incidentally features some well-directed shoot-outs. The emphasis of this movie is firmly and squarely on the lead actors and Mann has three fine ones at his disposal - Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard. Don't get me wrong - there are some extended action sequences, but it does not overwhelm the movie. The action sequences themselves are choreographed (for want of a better word) in such a way that you can, at all times, tell what is going on (unlike some other recent movie).
The acting is top-notch. The dialogs are written with care and after a while you can see why Cotillard's character would be willing to risk everything to be with Depp and vice versa. Christian Bale could have easily ended up as a third wheel and a less secure actor would probably have not ceded as much ground as he does to peripheral characters in this movie, but in one scene of unexpected tenderness and civility, he establishes his character's integrity without saying a single word. Impressive, very impressive. You will know what I mean when you see it.
There's a lesson in here for the makers of those summer blockbusters. If you populate your movie with good actors and then let the camera linger on their conversations, an engrossing movie can easily be made for a 10th of the budget you think you need to keep the audience engaged.