In this movie, the ideas of brutality and refinement are explored at the same time. Vast spaces lovers, best westerns amateurish and admirative of the wideness of America, this movie is for you. Without taking all together the usual codes and made a déjà-vu kind of movie, but on the contrary, by choosing a new angle, it offers a powerful story with several understanding levels.
Through this story, Tommy Lee Jones makes a tribute to his roots; those pioneers who ran away the oppression to find in return violence and the hardest life conditions on the land of all the foreseeable.
When this survival towards such violence is usually represented with the stoic Clint Eastwood, almost phantasmagoric, as an apparition in the desert looking for revenge, here the movie is much more intimist based on three women’s destiny. Truly authentic, you can feel this omnipresent exhaustion; the weary bodies, the traumatized spirits, and the broken dreams carried by those people who hang on to their auto-preservation will and their holly prayers.
Here are the pros of this movie which make it one of the best of this month:
- First of all, it lies on the complexity of the characters’ personalities. With a real ambiguity about their true goals starting this initiatory trip in the middle of the desert, you wonder, mistrust and share compassion for those complex characters. Is Mary Bee Cudy (Hilary Swank) the true nun of the West or rather hide her true intentions for a selfish interest? Is Tommy Lee Jones, alias George Briggs, a godless and lawless cowboy or looking desperately for the road of redemption? Indeed, performances, especially from Swank, Jones and the three actresses playing insane are quite excellent and command respect.
- Then, the photography is very considered. Between the large shots on the wide plateau of the West, the inside-doors witnessing the most rudimentary comfort and the confessions around the camp fire, the light and dark are exploited in order to flatter the actors and help the story. A nice execution which gives a lot of style to a movie of this genre.
- Finally, the rhythm is orchestrated in an efficient way. For two hours length film, the shots are smoothly linked together integrating the necessary slowness to explore the moments of tenderness without being too mannered or ceaseless, in contrast to the tension scenes remarkably brought up. Context, camera positioning and the soundtrack, are all cleverly used especially for the almost legendary tension scenes. For example, when Tommy Lee Jones deals with some business in the middle of the night with rich and arrogant funders of a hostel, the camera stays focused on his face, like a sequence-shot going towards the rooms and the flames, obliging you to be voyeur and accomplice of his revengeful acts.
Individuality, solidarity, self-destruction, hope, fighting spirit, spirituality and resilience, here are the tracers of this atypical story from the West. And so, never falling into pathos.
As illustrated in the final sequence, no time to pity yourself on this common truth that these men and women from this time have known and encountered: this world is a crude material, up to you to accommodate yourself.