That's a real shame because in truth it's actually rather a good film, with much to commend and lots that I enjoyed.
Sure, it stars Russell Crowe and I know for some of you that may not be an incentive. However, it certainly WAS an incentive for Lisette [and, ahem, for me: hey, what can I say? Crowe with an added layer of floppy hair (even if not quite 'The Quick and the Dead' excess) pushes my buttons somewhat...]
So, yes, Crowe; but also Bale. Now come on, that HAS to be a good call. Bale is at least interesting in what he does, and can turn in a beautifully nuanced performance easily even in below par movies (which this wasn't I must add). In recent years, we have had The Machinist, which is at the very least a fascinating film.
Crowe, Bale: what else do we have?
Well, there's the basis of a very fine movie with it picking up a good starting point. I know the original film, and though this is different, it has the right echoes of such a classic Western period (even if the original isn't quite the classic some have tried to claim it to be). The different ages of the protaganists between the films - they 'feel' much older in the 1950s version - adds a different dynamic to the narrative.
It's worth noting that despite a somewhat low-key response to the remake, reviews have been largely very positive: check out the Rotten Tomotoes site for a good overview. Many films do not get such a keen response across so many reviewers.
For me, there were several factors that raised the level of pleasure I could take from this film:
- the cast - not just the fabulous leads, who each turn in neat performances showing off their best skills (wounded, conflicted heroism for Bale; seductive arrogant violence-beneath-the-surface for Crowe), but also the supporting cast, including a lovely turn from Alan Tudyk (well appreciated as Wash in Serenity/Firefly), an almost unrecognisable Peter Fonda, and an appropraitely terrifying turn from Ben Foster.
- the cinematography and setting - used to full effect, locations and cinematography come together well here under the control of Phedon Papmicheal (an unlikely figure for such good work given much on his resume). Then again, can you go wrong with such landscape?
- the music - the score is lovely. Plenty of shades of pilfering the historical repetoire of Morricone's scores for Leone, but that can't be a bad thing. There are some truly uplifting and heart-racing sequences in the film, made even more powerful by the music.
Ultimately, this was a thoroughly emotional and gripping story with fine performances and a grand pace. It probably won't win any/many awards but for an overall feel, it probably deserves some.
If you've missed it, consider it a good rental/purchase on DVD. I'll certainly be watching it again, especially as I missed out taking Cloud to see it.