Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Ninety Four: The Wonderful Country
Since reading about it in a Film Comment article, I’ve had this one on my list of Westerns to track down. For Christmas, I was given a DVD copy and was delighted to pop it in the player the other night.
It’s the kind of Western you have to pay close attention to, not because it has a complicated narrative but because there’s a lot going on in the lines, beneath the lines, and between the lines. The script and performances are filled with nuance and there are clues to the character’s intentions in the most subtle moments. In this way, it’s an unusual Western, especially for the first half which I liked most. The intimacy of Mitchum’s experience in the town and with London after his accident is terrific, a refreshing change of pace for the genre.
And then about midway, the film deviates from this path, losing itself in what seemed like a subplot originally: the conflict between Mexican warlords, Native tribes, and American forces. Suddenly, it becomes so occupied with the political intrigue of the situation that it loses all that intimacy that was so well established. I must admit to being bored during many sections of the film’s final act. Thankfully, the final ten minutes do regain some of its early glory and the final shot is quite wonderful.
Seen on DVD