Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2002. Epsilon Motion Pictures, My Cactus, Tango Films. Screenplay by Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant. Cinematography by Harris Savides. Produced by Dany Wolf. Music by Arvo Part. Film Editing by Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant. Independent Spirit Awards 2002. New York Film Critics Awards 2003. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
Two average guys (provided you think that white, inarticulate twenty-something guys are average, which is another reason to be disappointed in Gus Van Sant these days) take a long car ride to the desert and go on a hiking trip with no gear, food, or water. Intending to only spend a day walking, they get lost in the vast expanse of California (though location shooting was also done in Argentina and Jordan) and wander for days as the elements work against their ability to function mentally and physically. While stunning to look at and fascinating in the way it shows these young men corroding, from strappingly healthy to totally ravaged, the film would have been a thicker experience with some kind of relationship between them. The sparse dialogue is colourless and mostly improvised, leaving the audience fascinated by the physical outline but uninvolved in the psychological exploration. It is interesting, though, and a much better example of Van Sant’s desperation to prove that the days of Drugstore Cowboy aren’t gone than Last Days would be.