Jim Jarmusch takes audiences on a slow-burning journey into the last chapter of Bill Blake, a man from Cleveland in the wrong side of the country. Played by Johnny Depp, his character is thrown into an array of unlucky and spiritual circumstances that usually peak with a quick, violent and exhilarating shootout. A gritty, funny, and all around mesmerizing film, Dead Man is perhaps Jarmusch’s greatest achievement, and one that I have appreciated more over time.
Straight off the bat, the cinematography is the best; hard-hitting, yet subtle and curious. Black and white fits this film perfectly, it’s probably one of the finest instances of modern made black and white films I’ve seen. The roaring and clunking of the train’s wheels, to Crispin Glover’s black-as-coal (because it is) face, to the Native Americans examining Johnny Depp in his point of view. All is fantastically shot.
Depp captures the frailty and out of contact behavior of Bill Blake through his performance. Thrown into a world he didn’t know existed and forced to comprehend with what’s given to him, Blake is tossed up and down shit’s creek. “Stupid white man”, Nobody, the Native American he meets on his journey regularly tells him. And it’s true. Each white man in the film is represented either outrageously or stupidly. Robert Mitchum for that matter is a tough looking boss of a metal works company, but hilariously over-the-top, especially when he glances up at the giant stuffed bear in his office.
It’s almost rural for Jarmusch to make a film set in this backdrop and time, but he adapts to it brilliantly, heaving his usual antics in place and adding a few firearm battles. At the moment, this stands as my favorite creation from the director. Its two hours fly by, just like they typically do with his films.