Miller’s Crossing

Miller’s Crossing

Betrayal, violence, power, control, loss of trust and false friendship are some of the most prominent themes in Miller’s Crossing. The movie, which was released in 1990, has its setting in the 1920s. In the film, Leo chooses to end his friendship with Tom over Verna. He cannot bring himself to kill Bernie because he is related to Verna, who is his lover. Despite Tom’s numerous attempts to bring peace to the city, Leo and Verna do not see the need to convince Bernie to talk to Casper. Casper orders Tom to kill Bernie at Miller’s Crossing and this is where the movie gets its title. In the end, Bernie kills Casper and Tom kills Bernie. Tom decides to end his association with Leo and Leo decides to marry Verna. Tom and Verna betray Leo when they have an affair, Leo betrays Tom when he decides to kick him out despite being his loyal and friend and confidant and Tom betrays many when he joins Casper’s gang. All the mobs want to control the city and no one wants to lose power.

The movie tries to portray gangs as they were in during that time. It however overlooks a few essentials such as the rule of the law and its authority. The person who controls the city also controls the mayor and the police. This gives a picture of the lawlessness that pervades the society. The law does not seem concerned with the wars and murders that are taking place in the city. Tom manages to swindle and trick many people without being caught. This was a bit simplistic on the part of the directors. Many gang leaders will do anything to get rid of the disloyal members. They will not tolerate betrayal and any one who attempts to do so is punished heavily. This is not the case with Miller’s Crossing. Leo is lenient towards Tom and he lets him get away. Most of the cast used in the movie bring out their roles nicely. Leo is portrayed as a hard man, whose soul seems to have been lost when Leo decided to kick him out. His eyes are menacingly cold. This prepares the audience for the role that he is going to play.

Tom does not seem to know which side he lies. He fights with everybody apart from Leo but he refuses to join his gang at the end. He brings out suspicion as the audience keenly watches and waits to see whom he will trick next. In the end, it is known what he chooses to do. Of the three mafia bosses that controlled different sections of the city, only one is left and another has emerged who seems to be a threat to him. Tom’s character does not seem real however as he executes his moves without going through many hitches. He is severely beaten but each time he does not seem to be seriously wounded and he continues with his mission. When he was working with Leo, he is portrayed as one who does not like violence. He suddenly gets a serious urge to get involved in it and even emerges to be the best. Leo is described as being the head of the gangs. He controls the mayor and the police. For a person who seems to hold such authority, his power is not clearly seen and he does not exercise it fully. Much of the attention seems to have been grabbed by Tom.

The picture quality is good. The images shown seem to be particularly haunting and this works perfectly for this type of film. They have used somber colors such as black, green and blue, which seem to echo the surrounding environment. The director put careful details in the costumes. The wide- brimmed hats and the big coats were the norm especially in 1920s. The characters use hard and violent language that is common with gang members. They are heavily accented. Some are Italian while others are Irish. This makes it hard for the audience to understand and he or she may be forced to skip some parts of the movie. However, it does tune in well with the setting, especially when one puts into consideration that this is a gangster movie. The audience can understand the accented hard gangster language with a little patience.

The movie does not end with the all too familiar happy endings that are characteristic of Hollywood films. In fact, there is no one who is portrayed with a clean heart or one who is innocent. Everybody’s role, including Verna who manipulates Leo as she wishes for the sake of her brother, is well played. There is no one who suddenly reforms and wishes to save the world from its own mess. This is a credible point for the director since it seems real. Problems are not solved immediately and only the people involved are affected, not the whole world as is typical of modern-day American films.

Cunningness, slyness and quick thinking are the qualities that Tom utilizes to get the job done. He maneuvers his way among his enemies and he gets the job accomplished. These qualities are actually what place him ahead of Leo. The only person that Tom kills is Bernie, yet many more die because of him. Leo and Casper do not utilize the same tactics despite being gang leaders. Bernie tries to do so and he even manages to convince Tom to save his life in the beginning only to turn his back on him. He blackmails him later on in the movie. Tom, however, is the master planner and he is not cheated the second time. He forgets the code of ethics that exist among the gangs and he uses the fights that Casper initiates to make some money.

Power, love and control are recipes for betrayal in this movie. There is no one who truly values the friendship that they have. Tom must have valued the friendship that he had with Leo but Leo chose to ignore this. Tom continues to care for Leo, though secretly, even when they become rivals. In the end however, he refuses to join him. This clearly shows loss of trust and false friendship between the two of them. There is honor even among thieves. The gangs live by a code of conduct that they seem reluctant to break until Tom shows up in the scene. This also causes disloyalty among the members and soon even members who are in the same gang do not trust each other.



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