When the film is a biographical sketch, this is a problem most directors run up against: where to draw the line between the person and the persona. From a director like Michael Mann, pairing actors such as Depp (playing the charismatic bank robber John Dillinger) against Bale (cast as Special Agent Purvis), you expect to get more of the first. Surprisingly, Mann keeps his film focused mostly on the latter.
In 1933, the fourth year of the Great Depression, the heat is on J Edgar Hoover (played by Crudup), then the director of the Bureau of Investigations, to capture Dillinger, who has been robbing banks and breaking out of prisons with consistent frequency. Desperate to redeem himself, Hoover has brought in Purvis, who has just shot another famous bank robber of the time, Pretty Boy Floyd.