The other reviews will tell you all about the great acting, story, etc., so I'll skip that stuff. I would give this FIVE stars, but what do I then give "Citizen Kane"? Or, "The Third Man"? Folks, we gotta' start rating with a tad more strictness, otherwise the ratings become inflated. 3 stars SHOULD be a pretty good flicker.
The photography in this film is amazing. This is NOT made from CCD chips, freinds. The A.S.C. on this one is none other than Conrad L. Hall. Wow. Mr. Hall has painted with light on emulsion to perfection. The processing, colour timer is a magician. Yes sir. God bless all the, now jobless, colour timers out there because they are truly whizzes at their art / craft. In the early 1980s, I once was a professional dark room tech and came to appreciate colour balance people. In this flick, ALL the photography professionals out-did themselves. —Thank you, lads for shooting Paul Newman's last film WITH FILM! Indeed, —he IS beautiful. Those Panavision Primo lenses wrap around Paul Newman's character, head, skin, body, bone structure, and, oh yes, blue, I said, BLUE eyes. —Like the tight hug of someone you love. And the man still looks as good as Cary Grant in a drape-shaped suit.
Dear lord, I don't care how much they can make CCD digital video look like film; —unless it IS film, it's just too damn easy. There is still a subtle, but SOULFUL difference between real film emulsion and those damn CCD chips. Anyone can point a CCD chip camera and make an acceptable professional ciné film image, because it is the computer that is running the show. A computer still has no soul. This may change, but I pray, not in my lifetime.
The story about the great Conrad Hall crying after looking through his line-up lens for a shot of Newman is touching. And it's true; —the man was, IS, "beautiful". I believe, that this was also Conrad L. Hall's last film. —Pure poetry of light. Conrad L. Hall, A.S.C., passed away, 3 January 2003.
Info for Amazon's "trivia".
I am no Thompson sub-machine gun expert, but I assure the one shown in this film is the real deal. Stop-still the film at the point when the inside of the Thompson case is shown. This is an original case made by the Geib Case Company. I know this because, 1920s and 1930s Gibson F-5 mandolin instrument cases of that same EXACT size, with the same outer covering, inner green/olive felt, leather handle and hardware were also used to hold the one and only Lloyd Loar Gibson F-5 mandolin made and signed by Mr. Loar from 1921 through 1924. —Find one and win $250,000. Find a Thompson and win a lot less.
It seems that the Geib Case Company simply used the same case for both the Loar Gibson mandolin AND the Thompson sub-machine gun. Ironic. All that is different, is the inside storage stay-form. Pretty cool, I thought.
In this flick, the props are frighteningly accurate. In fact, the supposed "costume goof" is NOT a goof at all. The people dancing in the speak-easy are said to be wearing Sheik and flapper clothing (styles from Valentino's film, "The Sheik") that is stated in the Amazon comments to be "wrong" for 1931. The text further states, that the clothes would have not been worn after 1928. —NO, NO, NO! Think of time AND PLACE. This is a small town in the Midwest, —1931 DEPRESSION time. People did not so readily throw out clothing. Clothing was still mostly tailored and far more expensive than today (far better made, as well). So the styles were NOT wrong for a small town at that time. A few of the automobiles were post 1931, but they were not in the main action. I saw no car newer than, I think,1933. Between the period sets and the streets, the set designers did cracking job. Bravo.
Side complaint. Most films these days think nothing about showing a character with a side arm (e.g., a 1911 .45 Colt), cocked for single action, yet the hammer has NO FIRING PIN! I did NOT see that in this flick, but, in almost EVERY film made in the last 20 years, this is being done (e.g. "Saving Private Ryan") —Hey, film makers, we are NOT that stupid. There is nothing that breaks my concentration more than to see a guy shaking in his boots, acting his arse off, with a cocked 1911 Colt that has NO firing pin. Yeah. I know it's just a movie; but we are supposed to be suspending our reality senses, temporarily, to enjoy the story. This is kinda hard when you are seeing props that blatantly look like nonsense.
Hey Amazon, the ONLY significant prop mistake I saw in this film was the use of a circa, 1940 - 1950 Stromberg-Carlson telephone. (A Connor Rooney scene) How can I know this? Because I own and use, the same 1943 Stromberg-Carlson telephone connected to the original copper, hard-wired American grid. And yes, I am still hard-wired to the copper wire American grid. I use this phone. It works, even when the power is out. E.g., during the two hurricanes and the great power grid shut-down, I had a working phone. Real phones, also sounds a heck of a lot better. The ring comes from a 70 volt powered, copper bell, via the original 70 volt system. I had to pull all sorts of strings to keep the hard-copper-line with pulse analogue dialing and analogue sound. All others within my area were converted to optical, digital line, 2 - 3 years ago. I am trying to be the last man in America with an analogue hard-wired phone.
The other phones in the film were off-era as well. 1931 was the era of dial-less candlesticks, and pedestal phones. Not until c. 1936 did you see more dial phones than non-dial phones. In 1931 rural Midwest, almost NO ONE would have had a dial phone. America was still small enough to simply have the operator connect you manually. E.g., "Operator, please connect me to Murray Hill 7309, thanks". —Yes, only 6 digits., and 4 and 5 digit numbers in rural areas. As Sinatra would say, Nice and Easy, eh?
And, yes; when I was a boy, you could pick up a receiver and ask the operator (a human being) to be reconnected to the last call.