Being a true fan of westerns I could not leave this movie unattended. And I was lucky to watch it in English at the critics` showing (in Moscow such an opportunity is often provided by the special hall at GUM Cinema Club). Maybe this is the key to the rare sense of involvement into the seemingly usual story of headhunters, Indians, outlaws and long wandering with troublemaking and adventure finding.
I will try to avoid spoilers, just say that the movie is shot in a very simple manner but this makes it very atmospheric. The effect of presence is reached by the lonesome landscapes of the Midwest shot in New Zealand, natural lighting which is neglected in some movies even in outdoor shooting, and all the characters with no exception. They are never exaggerated or distorted, you won`t see here such a fault of a few latest westerns as super-cowboys, mega-Comanchees or ultra-sheriffs. It`s nice to see no useless visual effects or any computer graphics – the movie is true to all possible extents.
And it is also silent, but it does not mar the impression. Moreover it falls into line with the spirit of the West – less words, more deeds. Short dialogues are filled with simple but philosophical sense, characters` offscreen thoughts reflect their mindsets and attempts to find their way where even the strongest ones get lost.
Main parts are played by Michael Fassbender and Cody Smit-McPhee. They perfectly fit into images of the lonely wandering outlaw who knows the dollar price of everything in this world and a lyric youngster, the last romanticist in pursuit of his first, naive and overwhelming love. Although to my subjective mind the most impressive is Ben Mendelsohn who played the loose outlaw Payne, the most colorful and spicy antihero of the story. A perfect villain – treacherous blue eyes, an outworn fake Stetson hat, signature manners. Like a live illustration of the saying “The law of the West is the law of the gun” he does make you falling down the Rabbit hole of all his tricky episodes. It is like reading Thomas Mayne Reid for the first time, turning yellow pages of an old book feeling as you were there in that canyons with a cavalry SAA on your hip, or in a forest by a campfire with a rifle, hunting bears or headhunters. Take it with a grain of salt, but the outlaw is truly awesome!
Director John Maclean and his team, previously made their mark on the Oscar-winning The King`s Speech, have reached the unique balance: they perfectly fitted the genre frames but made the movie special, they successfully mixed top famous cast with new talented actors, they made up a really deep story without unnecessary sophistication and finally they managed to revive the western.