Christian Bale is a superb actor, one of those rare actors whose persona doesn’t squeel “celebrity” but rather “depth”. He delivers an authentic scene, rather than something manufactured – some A-list actors have it, others not. Tom Cruise, as brilliant actor as he is, can never quite dispel that celebrity face. I loved his ice cool, ultra efficient character in Collateral. Cruise gave some superb moments. We see the Cayoti walk across the Los Angeles street, which somehow connects with Vincent’s loneliness. Through Cruise’s brilliant grasp of who Vincent is, we glimpse for a brief moment Vincent’s increasing vulnerability, even though Vincent never quite identifies that within himself, despite the audience being drawn to sympathize. It is remarkable that in the final scene of Collateral we almost feel sorrow for Vincent – not in his fate, but in the clear abuse he must have suffered that took him to that place of total insignificance to anyone around him. As with many of Mann’s protaganists, we find flawed, driven characters that nevertheless have an element of “goodness” buried unrealized, within them. But Mann doesn’t leave us with any vain pretentions on how bad they are either.
Cruise gave a weighty performance in Minority Report, a film I felt he escaped his usual persona. Farrell was also superb. It was on Collateral that I hoped Mann could bring the best Oscar potential out of Cruise, but in the end the characterization wasn’t in my opinion strong enough in the script to help Cruise find that liftetime best performance, as good as it still was.
Christian Bale is more fortunate than Cruise. Bale has that intrinsically built in enigmatic personality. He singlehandedly transformed the Batman franchise, bringing a depth previously pretended in the first two installments. His melancholic persona made Batman real and believable – a rare achievement for all things comic book. No wonder Mann was interested, a man who knows how to take melancholy and transform it into something meaningful through context, to be something capable of being redeemed. Most melancholic situations require redemption – am I right to say that?
So, I think Bale is perfectly cast in Public Enemies as the FBI agent. Here are some of Christian Bale’s comments on being directed by Michael Mann.