The expedition that this film centers around, while containing fictional characters, is based on a real expedition ordered by President of Texas Mirabeau Lamar to annex New Mexico to the Republic of Texas in 1841. The use of black and white beans to decide who to execute and who to spare is borrowed the Mier expedition, which took place the following year. See more »
This film is set in 1841 but presents Charles Goodnight as an adult. Goodnight was born in 1836, making him only a child at the time. See more »
Can we talk of this independently of Lonesome Dove? Sure, it is intermittently watchable and mostly stands alone, but at 4 hours of slogging through southwestern vistas it is all a bit much to little purpose. In truth though, the real reason this was made at all and secured such a broad canvas, was that we were eager to see the story of young Gus and Woodrow.
The story is that they join up with a hopeless filibustering expedition to annex Santa Fe, the film mirrors the exhaustion, aimlessness, dashed dreams on no man's land. So far so good. The tone is darkerthere is scalping, torture, lepers. Young Gus and Woodrow are narrowly reduced to caricature, which is bound to disappoint, but they are mostly side-characters on the journey.
But see, Lonesome didn't just have the endless expanses of sky and prairie, the riding and shooting. The journey was also one of meditation on dying and memory, rarely accomplished so well in a western before or after. What's more, it was the true article of myth, the eulogy a mid-19th century woman like Clara would seek in the poems of Walt Whitman.
This is to Lonesome, what the laborious effort to describe a journey is to the memory of the journey. You tell it as faithfully as you remember. You show pictures. But you can tell by the unmoved looks of your listener that your dry recitation cannot convey what it meant being there, the rich vision.
I'm only saying this to warn you of what the film is not. In Lonesome, we revisited lives haunted by the vision of women. Here, we just drag our feet through the desert, and the women (the same women) are tacked on in the beginning and end.
For practical reasons, this couldn't be anything else, Gus and Woodrow are young here, they don't have any hidden life for us to fall back on. Which is to say, that some things are best left imagined.
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