(out of 5)
At the beginning of Ron Howard’s western, Cate Blanchett plays a “healer” (unlicensed doctor) and rancher whose long-absent father (Tommy Lee Jones) visits her years after having abandoned her and her mother to go and live with a Native tribe. Her boyfriend (Aaron Eckhart) welcomes him easily enough, but she is far too bitter and angry about the past to allow him to come close to her or her two daughters. When she wakes up one morning to discover that neither Eckhart nor her two girls have returned from a trip into the city, she enlists her father’s help to help track down the army deserters (both white and Apache) who murdered her lover and kidnapped her eldest daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). Their journey into the harsh terrain of the undeveloped wild west provides for some lessons for all, especially in reuniting this woman with her long-lost parent. Howard has a grand old time coming up with beautiful shots of giant, panoramic vistas and gives Blanchett plenty of opportunities to prove her superiority to most other actresses in Hollywood. The central relationship between father and daughter, which the story hinges itself on, is hardly affecting, and all opportunities to indulge in a Fordian exploration of American racism in viewing white and Native relations are for the most part left by the wayside (despite the story’s blatant ties to The Searchers). The only really challenging aspect of this film is whether or not you really want Blanchett’s snotty, annoying daughter to be saved at all.
Directed by Ron Howard
Cinematography by Salvatore Totino
Music by James Horner
Production Design by Guy Barnes
Costume Design by Julie Weiss