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When you hear of the people involved and for there to be no awards buzz for this, you do wonder what could possibly the problem with this film?
I am always keeping on eye on any project Christian Bale is part of. I think he is a top talent and is definitely one of the most committed actors working today. His method approach to his work can get a bit too serious at time for my liking. But on the whole, he has done some brilliant work in the past.
Also, the director Scott Cooper has made some good pieces of work such as Crazy Heart. However, his bleak tone to his films can sometimes be a bit tough to be an entertaining watch. That relates to his other films, Out Of The Furnace and Black Mass. While they are pretty solid, the re-watchability is very low.
I must say that there is plenty of content to be praised. It starts off with a pretty threatening set-piece and the beautiful wide landscape certainly transports to that part of the world and in that period of the late 19th century straight away. When you understand what story we're getting ourselves into, I got fairly interested to see how this would turn out. However, the 2hrs 13mins duration does wear the plot quite thin fairly soon as it is a simple story with not much else to it.
It just about moves along to make it fairly entertaining and you can see trying to cover topical discussions. But they are ones that you have seen already been covered, and with a much stronger execution.
There weren't any exceptional performances. But they were certainly all pretty solid. Bale was fine. But I don't feel that his character's backstory matched his look and execution of the character.
I think Rosamund Pike was pretty solid throughout and I liked her character arch in this. However, I think since her jaw-dropping performance in Gone Girl, I think I'll be disappointed in the rest of her work.
It was great seeing Wes Studi in this. But I would have liked his character to have more development as I remember Studi's work in the 90s really well and I think his character could have played a much more integral role.
There were some nice surprise minor roles for big stars such as Peter Mullan, Jesse Plemons, and Timothee Chalamet. Sadly Mullan felt out of place as you could tell he can't work the American accent and can't completely remove his Scottish one. As for Plemons and Chalamet, they did well with what they had, which wasn't much.
There was one surprise appearance. But all I'll say is, that there was a 3:10 To Yuma reunion that takes place halfway through. But I will just tease that moment to not fully spoil the scene entirely.
The film's biggest positive is most certainly the cinematography. There are lots of amazing open-air landscape shots. But what makes it work the most is that this aspect of the film alone transports into this world pretty quickly and not at one point did I feel like I was out of the illusion.
I also liked it paying homage to many great westerns, particularly The Searchers. It is not often that we see a western, or something close to it. So we must take these films for granted when they get released.
The stuff I had problems was the dialogue at times, and the duration. I will not be surprised to hear any potential criticism on the dialogue, as a lot it was mumbled in its delivery. You do seem to get that with a lot of films, and I do sympathize with those that has a real pet-peeve about this.
As for the length of the film, it did not warrant its 2hrs 13mins duration as the simple plot wore thin early on.
While I was fine with the serious and slow-brooding tone, I just think the execution of the characters and themes just did not become fully-fledged for me to get heavily invested. It's perfectly fine with some entertaining set-pieces. But if I was being cruel, I would not remember that much after leaving the cinema as the duration felt more of a slog to watch.
I admired the P.C. message that it was trying to give. But I think the execution just did not fully work in my opinion. But I was glad that they were attempting to address that.
In a nutshell, a lot of it reminded me of some of the directors previous work such as Black Mass and Out Of The Furnace. The depressing and dour tone to it worked at times. But the pacing of it just made it tough to be entertaining and memorable.
I can see why this is hardly getting any awards buzz, despite the people involved.