Brian De Palma's 'The Untouchables': A Lesson in History? Complete w/Annotated Bibliography

Essay by AKAaronHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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'Ratta-tat-tat' Gunshots, echoing through the concrete maze of Chicago streets. This was an all-too real occurrence during the Prohibition era. As gangsters from rival gangs riddled each other with bullets, and deftly defied the law through slightly, less-than-honorable techniques, the 1930s were plagued with corruption on the municipal scale. The 18th Amendment passed in 1919 in response to the Volstead Act of the same year, publicly put a stop to sale, and possession of alcohol and it was highly unpopular with the public. Many law enforcement agencies were brought into suspected areas of illegal alcoholic activity to put a stop on these banned doings. Acclaimed director Brian De Palma portrayed one account of these actions in his 1987 movie, The Untouchables. The film centered on straight-arrowed cop Eliot Ness's benevolent obsession to end the infamous Capone crime syndicate in Chicago. Recruiting the help of a group of law enforcement officers who were unable to be bribed, and thus 'untouchable,' Ness finally stopped the gangster boss on the grounds of income tax evasion.

But was this movie as historically accurate as one would expect? By examining some of the elements of the movie, the true historical colors of the film might shine through. Through the use of cinematography, setting, as well as knowledge of actual events, the accuracy of this 'historical' movie can fairly be judged.

Brian De Palma's use of cinematography throughout the movie really conveys the emotions of the film well. His creative use of camera angles also helps the viewer obtain a greater sense of the characters in the film. Perhaps the most noticeable of camera angles in the motion picture were the aerial views. These let the viewer become detached from the action being displayed. These shots usually came after an intense action sequence, letting...