Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2007. Lionsgate, Tree Line Film, Relativity Media, Yuma. Screenplay by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Cathy Konrad. Music by Marco Beltrami. Production Design by Andrew Menzies. Costume Design by Arianne Phillips. Film Editing by Michael McCusker. Academy Awards 2007.
Struggling farmer and Civil War veteran Christian Bale needs 200 dollars to save his farm from greedy businessmen who would turn it into railway property. When a legendary gunman (Russell Crowe) is arrested and transported to another town’s train station to meet lawmen taking him to his trial, Bale signs up as part of the escort for the reward money. Along the way, the two develop a relationship that muddies the line between good guy and bad guy and sees them finding common ground (if not common goals). This exhilarating western, remade from the Delmer Daves classic, is notable for exceptional production values and fine performances, but also for having an underlying message that never hammers you over the head: not a single move is made without the motivation of money behind it, a fascinating examination of the deep-seated roots of capitalism that created the America that exists today. Bale is especially powerful, while Ben Foster steals the scenery as the insane outlaw who keeps watch over the travelling band in the hopes of saving his boss from the authorities. Great stuff, entertaining and thought-provoking and satisfying to the last scene.