Elliot Goldenthal reunites with Michael Mann for the first time since Heat. Goldenthal is a very talented composer and with Public Enemies he provides a very simple full sound to support the film.
Now with Michael Mann you can expect lots of handpicked songs by him as evident with his recent films. In fact most of his films except for Last Of The Mohicans utilize songs just as much as score. He definitely uses them as an editing tool and you can tell in the film. With Michael Mann though he makes sure the score works hand in hand with the song choices. You can watch Collateral and Miami Vice and see how they blend together to create the sonic identity of the film, which is the same case with Public Enemies.
Score-wise there isn't that much, but what's there is fantastic. It's tense and brooding and slowly growing and growing until the final piece that closes out the film. There are a lot of strings and they swell in and out. One theme uses a solo piano. It's a very simple score. I'm guessing that every piece of music is here on the soundtrack, because honestly there isn't much else in the film. You also get a selection of period songs and some modern interpolations of classics such as "Bye Bye Blackbird". Zimmer collaborator Bruce Fowler did some orchestrations and provides one track of music too.
What makes this CD worth owning is the piece "JD Dies", which is the capstone of the score. It's the piece that accompanies the climax of the film, which on its own is one hell of a scene. The tone and structure reminds me very much of The Thin Red Line by Hans Zimmer. Clearly that score was influential here since Michael Mann used a track from The Thin Red Line in the film and thanked Hans Zimmer in the end credits. Goldenthal's piece slowly builds and builds and erupts with a tragic downturn and an abrupt end. Those who have seen the film know exactly how well this piece works in the film; it carries the entire scene.
Anyway, even though there is only a minimal amount of score in the film what's there is pretty good. It's simple and effective, which is all you can ask for. It's not a great score that will be remembered, but it definitely stuck with me after I saw the film.