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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Love, Hate, Revenge, Forgiveness, Sorrow, Life, Death.
Love, hate, revenge, forgiveness, sorrow, life, death, emargination, racism, the uselessness of war, betrayal, redemption, solidarity, friendship. Not many films manage to deal competently with even just one of these topics. This masterpiece deals with all. Within the first 4 or 5 minutes (even before the opening credits) one has already been exposed to more force and emotion than most films can pack up in 90 minutes.
By the end of the 2 hrs 10 minutes of this film one would have lived through tour-de-force highlighted by memorable climaxes and showdowns featuring some of the most striking dialogue in cinematic history... "dying ain't no way to make a living". Eastwood's character doesn't speak much but utters a handful of memorable lines.
The central character played by Eastwood is given fine support by an excellent ensemble cast including Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney and most of all John Vernon. John Vernon plays a character called Fletcher who turns out to be one of the most complex characters I have ever come across. His motivations and true intentions are never quite clear. He comes across as a bit of a Judas figure and yet he still retains his humanity as the script and Eastwood as the director never truly judge Fletcher, leaving the viewer to judge for him or herself. Almost every character is memorable and every performance fits in place.
The action is sudden and explosive and not always expected. The film takes many twists and turns, yet every twist is a natural consequence of the situations and characters in the film. Ultimately one is left with a truly rich cinematic experience which should appeal to more than just fans of the Western genre. Its themes of suffering and the consequences of evil acts is still sadly relevant in today's world - a world in which not all wars are won by the good guys and in which the good are sometimes persecuted by those who win these wars.
When thinking of the best pre-credit sequences ever forget most others... this should be your best bet.
A dark journey through an existentialist nightmare
Once every few years we have a chance to see a film which is so unique and powerful that it sticks in your mind and stays with you for ages. Whether at its birth it was just meant to be a comment on the unreliability of memory or an outright thesis on existentialism is not so important. For it turns out to be the latter... and after multiple viewing and serious analysis one can get much more out of this film than initially expected. Its style is unique and contributes to make this film an unforgettable experience. This might well be the best debut film ever by a director... Fantastic editing, great directing, a script to die for, outstanding performances and a haunting soundtrack. This film is just about perfect. But don't forget to bring your brains and lots of concentration along with you - especially the first time you see it.