Michael J. Pollar
BONNIE AND CLYDE
Released in 1967, Bonnie And Clyde tells the true story of Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), the infamous criminal duo from the 1930's whose often deadly robberies led to a fierce manhunt and their eventual demise.
There was something groundbreaking about a film like Bonnie And Clyde being released in the 60's as it was a far more complex and powerful film than audiences, though mostly critics, were perhaps ready for. Instead of painting the criminals as simply two dimensional bad guys, the film showed them to be young, naive and very much human so their death, though it was a long time coming, was surprisingly heartbreaking. These were not simple villains, these were anti-heroes: a couple in love looking for a better life in the worst, most destructive way possible. The film wisely never excuses nor glorifies Bonnie and Clyde's despicable actions, it simply approaches their story with the goal of making the folly of their journey something that makes sense rather than lazily judging a couple of dead bank robbers.
Why would two young people with the future ahead of them do something so very clearly wrong, and so obviously destined for tragedy? This is the question the movie tries to answer and it does so in a subtle, clever way through Beatty and Dunaway's quietly masterful performances, key character moments (Clyde's impotence, Bonnie saying goodbye to her mother) and an honestly painted rural setting during the Great Depression when the idea of a couple of people going around robbing banks might've felt empowering to some. It should be said that the supporting cast, which includes the reliably excellent Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons, who won an Academy Award for her performance, is just as expertly chosen and convincing as the leads. Bonnie And Clyde takes a few leaps away from real life events to flesh out all these characters and, even though everyone knows what the ending will be going in, seeing the gang finally get taken down, in such a cold and violent way makes for what is still a very powerful sequence.
You would think this was a film from the 1970's as it takes quite a few chances that big movies at that time didn't really dare take (the scenes focusing on the main characters' sex life, their cruel and graphic demise, for example). Bonnie And Clyde was definitely a milestone and ahead of its time. To this day it remains a poignant, beautifully crafted film which is easy to get lost in and hard to forget.