Having fled to Mexico from the U.S. many years ago for killing his father's murderer, Martin Brady travels to Texas to broker an arms deal for his Mexican boss, strongman Governor Cipriano ... See full summary »
In the mid-19th century, Senator William J. Tadlock leads a group of settlers overland in a quest to start a new settlement in the Western US. Tadlock is a highly principled and demanding taskmaster who is as hard on himself as he is on those who have joined his wagon train. He clashes with one of the new settlers, Lije Evans, who doesn't quite appreciate Tadlock's ways. Along the way, the families must face death and heartbreak and a sampling of frontier justice when one of them accidentally kills a young Indian boy. Written by
Epic western spoilt by trying to cram too much into its running time
The Way West is an epic western, but unlike another epic western How the West Was Won, it isn't a very good film. The main problem here is that the script writers and the director have got carried away, and have tried to cram far too many events and subplots into the two hour running time.
The main plot thread follows an ambitious and cruel visionary named William Tadlock (Kirk Douglas), who dreams of taking hundreds of people into the vast, unexplored wilderness of the Wild West and starting up a new town. His ambition is an obsession. It drives him and dictates his every move. Even his own family come second in his list of priorities. During the journey, his behaviour towards the other pioneers becomes increasingly irrational and unsympathetic, and in the end he loses the respect of his fellow travellers.
There are some good moments in the film. The climax is really surprising, with a twist that few viewers will predict. Sally Field has some interesting scenes as a young girl who undergoes a sexual awakening during the trip. There's also a well done scene in which a man who has killed an Indian child by accident is hanged. However, the abundance of plot threads, characters and subplots is a big drawback. The makers should have concentrated on a few elements and done them really thoroughly, instead of cramming in so much and only dealing with the themes in a shallow and all-too-brief fashion. This is not bad, I suppose, but it could have been oh so much better.
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