Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The western is back.

Appaloosa was a labor of love, we understand, for actor/director/producer Ed Harris, who plays the lead role of Virgil Cole. Along with his sidekick, Everett Hitch, played by Viggo Mortensen, the two offer themselves to the town of Appaloosa in the late 1880's as law enforcement officers when the sheriff and his posse fail to return from the property of a local rancher (Jeremy Irons).

You know who's in charge here. Hitch gives deference to Cole constantly, allowing him to decide what their role is, what job they'll take, who they'll kill and when. It's not an easy job, but they've been working together for the last 12 years, which shows how good they've been at their job.

However, everything that's normal for them is upended when the widow Mrs. French (Renee Zellweger) appears on the scene with but a dollar in her possession.

This is a fascinating story -- actually, it's not the story that's so terribly fascinating as the interplay of the two men. Because, actually, it's a love story between the men. We see how they work together, how they trust each other and how that trust has been built, how they adapt in a changing situation. The west was changing rapidly, and the legal system not always the most just of systems. They knew they could rely on each other when nobody else was following their code.

The characterizations are rich, and Harris and Mortensen are perfect in these roles. I've actually never seen Harris so good, and we know, after decades of moviework, that he's good. This isn't Mortensen's most complex role, but it's one he fills wonderfully. Viggo Mortensen, in my opinion, is one of America's finest contemporary actors.

It's not a perfect movie, not the perfect western, but it's a fascinating account of two men faced with growing older and an American west that is changing, too.

Thumb's up.

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At 1:27 PM, Blogger Sheryl said...

I agree about Viggo. I loved him in Hidalgo. Have you seen that one?

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Adar said...

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