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It's 1881 in New Mexico, and the times they are a'changing. Pat Garrett, erstwhile travelling companion of the outlaw Billy the Kid has become a sheriff, tasked by cattle interests with ridding the territory of Billy. After Billy escapes, Pat assembles a posse and chases him through the territory, culminating in a final confrontation at Fort Sumner, but is unaware of the full scope of the cattle interests' plans for the New West. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a unique western. Parts of it are just brilliant, other moments are bungled, but it is composed and structured like no other movie from the genre.
Everyone knows the western legend about these two central characters, who went from being friends to sworn adversaries. The leading performances of James Coburn (Garrett) and Kris Kristofferson (Billy) are rather colourless, but the subsidiary characters are beautifully delineated. There are some pretentious moments. For example, near the start Billy is arrested and as he makes his way towards the lawmen who have come to take him, he adopts a Christ-like pose which is presumably meant to signify that he was some kind of martyr among Wild West outlaws (when, in reality, he was probably just a psychopath).
However, there are stunning moments in the film too. In fact, the scene in which Slim Pickens stumbles, wounded and mortally bleeding, to a riverside so that he can die peacefully is arguably the most moving scene ever in a motion picture. The acting, the music and the photography fit together harmoniously to make this a truly magical cinematic moment.
One word of warning: beware of the incoherent, chopped-up 106 minute version of the film. If you're planning to watch it, go for the full 122 minute director's cut, which is immeasurably superior.
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