Well, what a pleasant suprise. I rented this DVD purely on reading reviews. For once, the critics got it right. Infact, some have drastically undersold this gem of a movie. You may know the story; two old friends driving cattle become entagled in small town injustice and bullying.
Ok, it aint original is it? Well, watch the movie and you will feel like this is the first time you have ever seen this plot. It feels so fresh and original. The vast majority of the credit should be given to Kevin Costner himself. On the directing side, he manages to use subtlty and reality in perfect combination. He uses the terrific landscapes spectacularly and allows the actors to instill a genuine sense of belonging to the area. The climactic gunfight is as thrilling as it is realistic. Five shots can be fired, one may hit the target (and that goes for good and bad guys).
Performance wise, Michael Gambon is wonderfully nasty in what is essentially a cameo appearance. Annette Benning plays her role neatly, sticking to the woman-with-morals line. But the two leads, Duvall and Costner, ARE the film. Duvall can do no wrong when playing the older, wiser friend. Here he adds a menace and power little seen before. Costner is breathtaking. The opportunities to glam-up his tough cowboy role are completely avoided in favour of a complex, shy and tortured man. A man who has fallen in love sits effortlessly with a gunslinger trying to forget his violent history.
Open Range should really have found its way to Oscar night. Costner has demonstrated that Dances with Wolves was no fluke. In my humble opinion, this film is better. It is a simple narrative, played honestly...and is all the better without any showey "oscar-look-at-me" moments.
One added feature that shows why it turned out so well; On the DVD, there is an extra feature called B-Roll. This is behind the scenes video. Not one of the crappy makings of, just unedited video. Look at the pure joy in Costners face as he directs. There's a man enjoying being one of the best in the business.