28 December 2020 | bastille-852-731547
Soulful, lyrical, powerful Western
I'm a big fan of Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks, so I was looking forward to this 19th-century Western. Based on the book of the same name, it tells the story of a Civil War veteran, Capt. Kidd (Hanks) who now serves as a news-teller in Texas. He must bring a young girl, Johanna, to her aunt and uncle. The film is skillfully well-made and leisurely paced, as its tone feels almost lyrical. Its western setting is depicted as harsh and realistic, but still unique and powerful. The film's cinematography of 19th-century north Texas is absolutely impeccable. After "Nomadland," it's the best cinematography of the year. From gorgeous wide shots of prairies and canyons and mountains to detailed sets of important towns at the time such as Wichita Falls, the shots look sublime throughout the film.
While the film's pacing is slow, it never feels too slow by any means. In fact, such leisurely pacing feels appropriate to the more lyrical tone of the film--almost like a more gritty version of a ballad. Even though the film is obviously very tonally different from Greengrass' other films, such as the original Bourne trilogy and "Captain Phillips," Greengrass is still able to build up lots of suspense at appropriate times over the course of the film--such as a scene when Capt. Kidd and Johanna must out-maneuver a gang of outlaws, a bumpy and dangerous stagecoach ride, and a desert storm. The emotional core between Kidd and Johanna is very well done, and the performances are very strong. Hanks does a great job showing a range of both charisma and grit in the role, and the young actress who plays Johanna is superb. My only criticism of the film was that the film could have developed Kidd and Johanna better as characters, although the limited dialogue between the two of them (as Johanna does not speak English) may be one of the reasons why character development within the scenes they are both together in can sometimes be a bit limited. Otherwise, this is a gritty yet gorgeous Western made with passion and talent. Gladly recommended. 8/10