The Mustang (2019) Poster

(2019)

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An outstanding existentialist drama
lor_9 March 2019
Triumphs of the human spirit constitute perhaps cinema's most enduring story material, and this French film shot in Nevada brings a powerful existentialist message to the viewer without the preachiness one might expect of an American movie on the subject.

Matthias Schoenaerts, his shaven head and rock-solid physique suggesting a Vin Diesel, is magnificent in the lead role, a convict without hope or direction paralleled with the title wild horse he's tasked to train for sale to police departments or ranchers in a prison program run by craggy old Bruce Dern. Connie Britton makes the most of her two scenes as a prison psychologist working on rehabilitation.

Most of the cast is non-pro, actual prisoners from such a program giving solid performances for debuting feature director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Echoes of "The Myth of Sysiphus" and other existential writings underpin the action, but Laure carefully makes it a visual cinematic experience, not one of those 1950s Playhouse 90 classics from TV's Golden Age. Free of sentimentalism, it also keeps the melodramatic subplot involving chicanery and violence in prison to an absolute minimum, and is a wholly satisfying movie with universal appeal.
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9/10
Great Movie
kross-460311 November 2019
A Movie with no political agendas, Very down to earth and believable. The Film makers did a wonderful job of demonstrate how less is more.
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8/10
Involving movie, well shot, well acted, a solid 8
michaelseither6 June 2019
I wasn't going to write a review since many better reviews have been written but then I saw some very negative reviews which were way off base. This is not a kid's movie, not a comedy, not a rom-com. It's hard nosed and sometimes tough to watch but it is, imho, a very good movie and better than 3/4s the movies that were released in the same time period. The producer was Robert Redford. Bruce Dern is one of the supporting actors. That should get your attention. It was filmed on site at an amazing facility. It is true that it can make you feel uncomfortable but there are moments of true transcendency. I think everything tends to be subjective but I think this movie deserves every chance it can get to be seen. Disregard the negativity, it is a very good movie.
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7/10
man and horse figure it out
ferguson-621 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Greetings again from the darkness. A herd of wild horses frolic and gallop and relax in the prairies that separate majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Suddenly the peace being enjoyed by the horses is interrupted by the deafening noise of a helicopter above. The purpose of the helicopter is to push the herd towards the corral and trucks that are part of the round-up. An opening title card informs us that more than 100,000 wild horses roam the U.S. countryside and the government is only able to manage a small percentage. Part of that process involves therapy for prisoners ... an obvious analogy being the two wild beings try to tame each other. When the prisoners have trained the horses, an auction is held, and many of the animals will be used in law enforcement - an irony not dwelled upon here.

Roman Coleman is a guilt-riddled man. A man of short fuse and violent ways. He readily admits to the prison psychologist (Connie Britton) that "I'm not good with people." After 12 years in isolation, he's been transferred to general population and he seems pretty indifferent about it. His guilt is the type that only a split-second violent outburst can saddle one with - though we don't hear the specifics until late in the film. The psychologist assigns him to "outdoor maintenance" which is a fancy institutional term for, well, shoveling horse manure.

As he observes the rehabilitation program, where the convicts train the wild mustangs under the tutelage of crusty old horse trainer Myles (Bruce Dern), Roman is drawn to the wildest of the wild ... a mustang kept in a dark stall and labeled untrainable. The parallels to Roman himself are obvious, and soon head trainer Myles and fellow convict Henry (Jason Mitchell, MUDBOUND) have invited Roman into the program. It's here where man and horse prove how similar their temperaments are - they both react with anger to most any situation. After a particularly cruel and unfortunate outburst, Roman is back to solitary confinement and studying up on horses.

Writer-director Laure de Claremont-Tonnerre co-wrote the story with Mona Fastvold and Brock Norman Brock (BRONSON). It's the director's first feature film and she shows a real knack for pacing ... letting the uncomfortable scenes between man and horse breathe and play out. Speaking of uncomfortable, when Roman's pregnant daughter Martha (rising star Gideon Adlon, BLOCKERS) shows up to get his signature on a form so that she can run off with her boyfriend, the history and lack of commonality between the two is palpable. Their scenes together are excruciating. Sure this is a cliché-filled concept, but the director and especially the cast keep us glued to the screen and caring about what happens.

Matthias Schoenaerts stars as Roman, and it's yet another stellar performance from the actor who exploded onto the movie screen with BULLHEAD (2011) and RUST AND BONE (2012). Since then, it's been one terrific turn after another. His physical presence and soulful eyes convey so much. He has mastered the strong silent type, but here he expertly uses body language to communicate with both the horse and the audience. The drug-dealing sub-plot appears to have been included to remind us just how dangerous a prison yard can be, but we never lose sight of the pain involved with second chances and learning to be a better person. There are some similarities to two excellent 2018 movies, LEAN ON PETE and THE RIDER, but this first time filmmaker wisely lets her talented cast do their thing, as she complements their work through cinematographer Ruben Impens' (BEAUTIFUL BOY) fabulous work up close and with expansive vistas. Robert Redford was an Executive Producer on the film, so the beauty of the area is not surprising. The film allows emotions to play out right through the final shot.
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7/10
A lovely tale
FrenchEddieFelson19 June 2019
Yesterday evening, I saw this film at a premiere in the presence of the actor Matthias Schoenaerts, the director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, the producer Alain Goldman and part of the film crew, within UGC Les Halles, in Paris. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Alain Goldman briefly mentioned the manifold difficulties dealing with the making of a first film abroad. Women in the audience were clearly under the spell of Matthias Schoenaerts who behaved like he was himself under Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre's spell.

Without unduly spoiling the script, Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is incarcerated for aggravated violence. After a decade in prison, most under total isolation, he has the opportunity to benefit from a rehabilitation program involving the training of wild mustangs. But before controlling a wild animal such as a mustang, first you must be able to control yourself. And that's definitely the point. Thus, we see Roman (the prisoner) and Marquis (the mustang) taming to each other, as the fox and the little prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943).

The script is predictable and the taming phase is described as elliptically as naively, but we can easily cope with this secondary observation. Moreover, the cast is excellent, the Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts enjoying a legendary charisma and a remarkable aura. He is also perfectly seconded by Jason Mitchell and Bruce Dern. In fact, I was particularly moved by the message of hope transpiring throughout the entire film, a prison being generally reduced to the single status of « let's hide the dust under the carpet », that is to say that as long as the scum is in jail, the society will feel better (it is certainly a plus) but without really worrying about the after-jail (that's weird, isn't it?)

As a synthesis: a lovely tale brimming with beneficence, philanthropy and humanity. 7/8 of 10.
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10/10
Incredible!!
luciacarr1 February 2019
Such an amazing and beautiful story, Matthias was phenomenal!!!
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9/10
Interesting story, with terrific acting make this sleeper a must see
ccorral41927 March 2019
When Robert Redford attaches himself to a film as Executive Producer, other than last years "The Old Man & the Gun," one should pay attention. Toss in yet another fine gruff performance by Bruce Durn, an Award worthy lead performance by Matthias Schoenaerts ("The Danish Girl") as convict Roman Coleman, and an equistrian rehabilitation story line that hasn't been presented in this manner before, and you've got a film viewing experience with substance. Director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (2015 Aspen Shortfest Special Jury Winner for "Rabbit" and 2015 Sundance NHK Award winner for "The Mustang") introduces the viewing audience to wild mustang prison rehabilitation therapy program, via the the incarceration of Roman, who has shut himself off from his daughter (nicely presented by Gideon Adlon "The Society" TV) and life outside of his 12-years in prison. While the story leads the viewer down a somewhat predictable road, Roman's conflicted and reserved journey, along with his various contentious interaction with his horse (Marcus), is hard to look away from. Schoenaerts really steps outside the usual roles he is recognized for, and for this reason his performance places him securely into higher category of actors. One of my favs, Connie Britton ("Dirty John" TV), has a cameo here that's less than stellar, but it's alway great to see her work, and Jason Mitchell (Henry) and Josh Stewart (Dan) have arrived on the actor radar. The issue with "The Mustang" is that director/writer de Clermont-Tonnerre, and fellow writers Brock Norman Brock and Mona Fastvold, present several interesting side stories (drugs, murder, life in prison) along Roman's journey that are never flushed out. Regardless, "The Mustang" will be the sleeper film you'll want to experience.
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10/10
The Mustang is a beautiful piece of cinema!
harland-887-69523914 September 2019
The Mustang is a beautiful and emotional movie not only about the idea of redemption but the idea that people aren't as shallow as one action they commit. This movie has a purpose, it has something it wants to say and everything in this film is nearly pulled off flawlessly. You could feel the passion in every scene from the filmmakers, the cast and just everything from the moment the film began, making it very easy for me to get emotionally invested in whatever was happening on screen. The opening scene is flawless, establishing a necessary emotional connection between the audience and the Mustangs which is very important. For this movie to really work you need to feel invested in the animal and sympathize with them just as much as you need to connect with the prisoner and the film pulls this off perfectly. Matthias Schoenaerts Performance as Roman Coleman is phenomenal! Matthias really pulls off the introverted like character perfectly so you can really feel the disconnect not only between Roman and society but between Roman and everyone he comes into contact with. You can genuinely feel the isolation through the character and it really puts you into the movie. You can really feel the pain and regret Roman feels about the decisions he has made and because of that you really connect with him and start separating the prisoner from the crime. This all ties in with the overall theme of one action not defining a person and it works flawlessly. Thought Mathias delivers a masterful performance, he isn't the only one to carry this movie acting-wise. Actually, I would say the entire cast was phenomenal and the chemistry between them was fantastic and nothing less than impressive. This movie is also incredibly shot, every scene in this movie is mysteriously sickening yet beautiful and the atmosphere this takes place in is perfect for the story and character. I also love a lot of the other messages and ideas the film plays with like how a prisoner is so consumed by the world they just left that they refuse to let go of the past, this is shown win Roman refuses to sign the paper allowing his daughter to sell his mothers house. The house ties him to a time in his life that still feels recent to him and he doesn't want to let that go. It also plays with the idea of how even though an inmate is trapped in one moment of their life, people they care about are all growing and moving on. You can really see how those two ideas add to Romans' character. This movie not only focuses on the physical trauma an inmate can indoor on a daily basis but the guaranteed beat down a prisoner goes through psychologically. Especially with Roman who had to endure a ton of time in solitary confinement which adds even more trauma to the character. I think what I love about this movie is how deep it really goes, this movie introduces a lot of different and important ideas in a pretty short about of time but at the end, you feel completely satisfied with everything that happened. It doesn't feel like you didn't get enough answers or that the movie was rushed, the movie is paced perfectly and it creates a perfectly satisfying film. This movie also does an incredible job of showing the obvious trauma marquis the mustang went through, this is important because it is the basis of the connection between Marquis and Roman. They are both hurting on the inside and can't vocalize their feeling so when they look into each other's eyes for the first time they bond immediately because they truly understand each other frustration. The Mustang is emotional, beautiful, powerful and a true masterpiece of cinema. The writing is phenomenal and you'll find yourself deeply invested in the story and characters in this movie. The camera work is phenomenal, as well as the production design and cinematography was. At the end of the day, the Mustang is a nearly flawless movie that I'd recommend everyone to watch asap.

Rating 9.5/10
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8/10
"I'm not good with people" - Matthias Schoenaerts shines!
paul-allaer6 April 2019
"The Mustang" (2019 co-production from the US, France, and Belgium; 96 min.) brings the story of Roman. At the movie's beginning, we are informed that over 100,000 wild mustangs roam in the US, from which several hundreds are taken to prisons each year for training by inmates. The opening scenes bring us one of those round-ups, as a chopper is directing a herd of mustangs towards captivity. We are introduced to Roman, locked up (for what crime?) in a maximum security prison in Nevada. "I'm not good with people", he tells the reclassification officer, so she puts him in the outdoor maintenance program. Initially it's just cleaning up horse manure, but eventually he gets to work with one of the mustangs. In a parallel story, Roman is visited by his highly pregnant daughter, and their meeting is - strained... At this point we're 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the feature length directing debut of Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (better known for her acting career in France), and what a debut it is! She also co-wrote the script. She brings a multi-faceted story: yes, there is the redemption side where a hardened criminal finds new hope when bonding with a mustang, but there is also the complicated father-daughter angle (which surprised me on several occasions as that played out), and of course there is the aspect of life in prison. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts was made to play the role of Roman: a very physical yet nuanced performance (in the same way that it reminded me of Marlon Brando--but I'm not saying that Schoenaerts is in the league of Brando!). Bruce Dern has a small role as the heard of the mustang training program. The photography is eye-candy from start to finish. And then there are the mustangs, themselves a character in the movie. In the end, the biggest treasure that was uncovered in this film may well be Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. I can't wait to see what she will do next. (Please note that Robert Redford is credited as Executive Producer.)

"The Mustang" premiered to immediate acclaim at this year's Sundance film festival, It is not a coincidence that this movie is currently certified 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. "The Mustang" recently opened at my art-house movie theater here in Cincinnati. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (5 people to be exact, myself included). That is a shame. Maybe the movie will find a wider audience as it is released in different formats. If you are up for a top-quality movie with a dazzling performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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8/10
Beautiful Film
jerryduck4710 April 2019
I woke earlier than usual this morning and with Daylight Savings Time hitting tomorrow decided to get up and acclimate a day early. Perusing the upcoming movie releases, I was thrilled to see that "The Mustang" is scheduled to hit the theaters this month. I don't know how wide a release it will be, but it's well worth tracking this beautiful film down

French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre makes her feature film directorial debut here. There is little question that she will be given many more opportunities after this endeavor.

Fortunately she was at the Sundance opening for the film and we had the chance to hear how she brought this film to fruition. The story is based on an actual prison rehabilitation program whereby violent inmates are given the opportunity to break and train wild mustangs in an effort to ready them for auction. There are more than 100,000 mustangs in the wild and a portion are herded up each year to enter the program.

The film stars Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts. He is an established star in his country and has appeared in several Oscar nominated foreign language films, and he received a Cesar Award for Most Promising Actor for his performance in "Rust and Bone" In 2013.

Schoenaerts is the heart of this movie. He and the wild horse he is assigned to break. His violent past can be discerned just by looking at him. He is a deeply troubled man and wants nothing than to be left alone. "I'm not good with people" he bluntly states. Adding to the richness of the characters in the film is Bruce Dern who delightfully plays the crusty, irascible trainer to the inmates. It's good to see him deliver a solid performance at age 82.

The cinematography in the film is stunning. The mountains of Nevada enveloping this maximum security prison provide good material for the director. She puts it all to great use. Some of the scenes with Roman Coleman (Schoenaerts) and his horse are intimate and moving.

This was one of my favorites from this year's Sundance Festival and I am very pleased that it made it to the big screens. I hope it reaches many of them and that you get to see it. Enjoy.
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7/10
From a narrative perspective, there's nothing you haven't seen done before, but it's very well-made and genuinely moving
Bertaut9 September 2019
The pitch for The Mustang is about as hackneyed as it gets - a dangerous convict who hits out at everything and everyone is given a shot at redemption by working with a dangerous horse who hits out at everything and everyone, and as the man starts to tame the animal, the animal starts to tame the man. So far, so Hallmark Channel movie of the week; a story so familiar, it seems impossible it could communicate anything of interest. Except, despite its derivative underpinnings, The Mustang has been made with such craft that it transcends the clichés and works exceptionally well on its own terms. Tonally similar to recent equine-related films such as Lean on Pete (2017) and The Rider (2017), whilst also covering some of the same narrative ground as Michael Mann and David Milch's criminally underappreciated TV show, Luck (2011), The Mustang touches on issues such as masculine guilt, penitentiary stoicism, and human-animal trust, but really, this is a character study. And yes, chances are everything you think might happen does happen, but the acting, the emotional beats, and the sense of authenticity all contribute to the whole, wherein it turns out the familiarity of the destination doesn't matter that much when the journey to get there is so well executed.

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is serving a 12-year bit in a Nevada jail and has just been released from solitary. He's so emotionally shut down that the prison's psychologist (Connie Britton) can barely get him to confirm his name, let alone open up about his feelings. Assigned to "outdoor maintenance", he is to clean up the horse dung from the mustangs used in the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP), which sees a select few inmates "gentle" the animals - essentially, tame them so they can be sold at auction. Coleman keeps to himself, but is drawn to a barn in which a single horse repeatedly kicks the door. Seeing Coleman's interest, head trainer Myles (Bruce Dern doing his Bruce Dern thing) decides to give him a chance to work with the horse, although he warns him that it's considered unbreakable, and will likely be euthanized. Naming him Marquis (although he mispronounces it as Marcus), Coleman sets about attempting to connect with Marquis in a way in which he hasn't connected with anyone or anything in many years.

Executive produced by Robert Redford, The Mustang was initially developed through the Sundance Institute. Written by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Mona Fastvold, and Brock Norman Brock and based on de Clermont-Tonnerre's short Rabbit (2014), The Mustang is her feature directorial debut. As the opening and closing legends tell us, WHIP is real, with prisons across 13 states adopting it, and research showing there is a significant dip in recidivist rates amongst inmates who have worked with the horses (the rehabilitative potential of WHIP was also an important plot point in Luck).

Despite the narrative outline suggesting otherwise, The Mustang is not a sentimental film. De Clermont-Tonnerre avoids, for example, romanticising the relationship between Coleman and Marquis; they don't have some kind of profound psychic bond, rather they connect emotionally, nothing more. Their relationship is not an opportunity for glib esotericism regarding the human condition, it's a simple friendship. Belying her directorial inexperience, de Clermont-Tonnerre shows a terrific instinct for how close or how removed we should be at any given moment; at times, she stands back and allows the characters room to breathe, whilst at others, she muscles into the action. This is important when we get to the third act, as she shows remarkable (almost documentarian) directorial restraint, shooting the film's last few scenes, where the potential for melodrama at its strongest, in such a way that such melodrama is never allowed to overwhelm the smaller more realistic character beats.

In terms of acting, this is Schoenaerts's film, with his performance recalling his work in De rouille et d'os (2012), Maryland (2015), and, most obviously, his portrayal of Jacky Vanmarsenille in Rundskop (2011). Coleman shares a lot of characteristics with Vanmarsenille, and Schoenaerts hits many of the same beats, particularly the barely controlled temper that could erupt at any moment. The performance is all the more impressive when you consider how little dialogue Schoenaerts has, instead conveying emotion via physicality. Pay attention, for example, to his gait, which subtly changes over the course of the film in tandem with his developing arc.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity between Coleman and Vanmarsenille, however, is their connection with animals. In Rundskop, Vanmarsenille is repeatedly compared to the bulls his family rear, whether through shot composition or editing. This comparative vein is even more pronounced in The Mustang. For example, the film opens on a tight close-up of a mustang's eye, and the first time we see Coleman, it's a BCU of him opening his eyes as horse hooves play on the soundtrack. Later, there's a shot in which Coleman is reflected in Marquis's eye and a scene where both he and Marquis are pinned to the ground, facing one another. When Coleman is confined to his cell, we see him pacing back and forth and punching the wall, recalling Marquis's behaviour in the stall. Sure, none of this is subtle, but it is effective, with de Clermont-Tonnerre showing a surprising ability to communicate emotions and themes via pure visuals.

Thematically, of course, the main theme is the similarity between man and beast - Coleman and Marquis are both wild and unruly, and both must be brought to a condition of amiability. Within this, the other big theme is the danger of losing self-control. A crucial scene in this respect, and one of the best in the film, is an anger management class with the psychologist, who asks each prisoner how long passed between the thought of their crime and its execution, and how long have they been in jail. None of the men say there was anything more than a few seconds between thought and deed. The point is clear; a split-second decision has landed then in prison for years. It could be a scene out of any number of prison documentaries (it would have fit right into The Work (2017), the superb documentary about the Inside Circle program in Folsom), and it's a good example of de Clermont-Tonnerre hanging back when she needs to.

Of course, the film is not perfect. For a start, for some people, the narrative beats, particularly the penitentiary redemption arc, will just be too familiar. The fact is that we've all seen pretty much everything of which The Mustang is composed, and for some, that aspect will simply be off-putting. De Clermont-Tonnerre does a fine job of sidestepping almost all of the clichés inherent in this kind of story, but the mere fact that there are so many clichés to avoid in the first place will discourage some people. A bigger issue is a subplot involving Dan (Josh Stewart), Coleman's cellmate, who blackmails him into smuggling ketamine into the prison. This subplot feels like it's been imported from another film entirely, but in incomplete form - it's introduced late in proceedings, is only half-heartedly explored, and ends without much in the way of resolution. These scene are the weakest and the most inauthentic in the film. The narrative needs Coleman to be at a certain place at a certain time, and de Clermont-Tonnerre uses this storyline to facilitate that. But there were far more organic ways to have accomplished this without resorting to a subplot that is so tonally divorced from everything around it.

These few issues notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed The Mustang. On paper, this is a clichéd social protest film with a classic redemption arc, but de Clermont-Tonnerre fashions it into something far more emotionally authentic. She embraces, for the most part, non-judgmental restraint, simplicity, and sincerity, and more than once communicates meaning via purely visual statements. She's working perilously close to cliché, but her intimate direction and Schoenaerts's committed performance allow the film to remain always genuine and respectful. Basing the drama around the real-world WHIP, de Clermont-Tonnerre suggests that, as in other restorative therapies, when you treat someone like a human being, oftentimes, you will find their humanity. And the irony, and the film's most fascinating and beautifully handled trope, is that Coleman's humanity could only be found, drawn out, and nurtured by an animal.
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10/10
Great movie
sorrentinolouis3 April 2019
Must see movie if you love horses! It's sad to see how we are losing the American wild mustangs in the west. I feel mustangs should be protected because they played great role in the development of American history!
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6/10
Not so fast my friend
nealkattman26 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I guess I could be critical of this story in a slightly withdrawn way.. I've never been to prison. But I am a lifelong horseman. So there lies my dilemma...

I'm sure that regardless of who is caring for horses; free men or prison inmates, Horses are Horses and a guy whose never worked with them WILL NOT have em puppy dog gentle using the tactics shown here. Especially after the other ABSALUTE falicy of a man punching a wild horse in the ribs numerous times, without the horse getting away.

Other than that I enjoyed it. Bruce Dern is one of the best actors to ever live and the general concept of the story is as Noble a thing human beings can do for one another.
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9/10
Excellent Film, superb directing and great musical score and acting is fantastic
trav1237 December 2019
At first I thought this film would be boring and like a docudrama but it pleasantly surprised me. The directing is superb and the story moves at a fast pace capturing your attention with some great shots and a musical score that was fantastic. The main actor from Belgian carries the film and reminded me a lot of his character in Bullhead so it was nice to see good character arcs by the writer, and the supporting actors made the film feel more complex and entertaining. It will definitely be worthy of some nominations as it has a feel good message and a charming ending. I rarely give films a 9 but this little gem deserves it. Kudos to the Director and team.
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9/10
Touching story
blazedounal14 October 2019
I know so much good review for this movie, but I still write my review because this movie touched my feeling. The main character is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts. He is star in this movie. He had several Oscar nominated foreigner language films. The movie of course about the mustang. The story begins at actually prison in Nevada. The most isolate prison in USA. The violent inmates allow to train the wild mustang that is program for help prison inmates to training themselves before they come back to their outside world. In 2013, The prison name was Schoenaerts who is violent and isolated by himself and he is deeply trouble man and wants nothing by left alone. In the movie, he says "I am not good at people". He is also violent person and depression man. He hurt his wife and sentenced into prison. After couple of time, he played with Masquis who the wild horse was. The chief of training horse program (Bruce Den) let him into training horse program. After a lot of action, emotion and sacrifice through training with Masquis, he realized about himself and purpose to live because he also has daughter to take care. This was a one of my favorite movies with touching stories of inmate's prison. I think you should watch for yourself and feeling it.
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1/10
Terrible representation
stephalinsley10 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was a huge disappointment. As an advocate for Mustangs and someone who works with them for a living, this movie did no favors for Mustangs or the inmate programs. 1. Mustangs do not give you their trust after you've had an epiphany and feed them a carrot. 2. Inmate program facilities are not so half-assed as that so they would be pulling in wild animals indoors for a storm.. (this one was a big wtf.) 3. No such isolation boxes exist for horses. 4. Inmates would never have access to medical supplies like that, and the entire drug story line was totally unnecessary. 5. Please do not release Mustangs back into the wild. It is a danger to themselves and the herds they attempt to reintegrate to.

So so many things that made me so sad that this was the representation of Mustangs and inmate programs to the mass public.

Aside from all that, even assessing it as a Hollywood flick, the story lines were half baked and underdeveloped. By the end of the movie, he was not rehabilitated, nor was the horse, nor was his relationship with his daughter... so it totally contradicted the quote in the credits saying that wild horse inmate programs significantly reduce the chance of second offenses.

The story ends with the horse alone in the wild and the man stuck in solitary confinement.
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5/10
Predictable tale of inmate-horse bonding would have been better as a full-length documentary
Turfseer21 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Another Sundance import has come down the pike and as usual with such atmospheric projects, it must remain immune from any serious criticism from the film critic community. That's because The Mustang is one of those "well-meaning" missives on the subject of inmate rehabilitation. The inmate in question is Roman Coleman (played rather glumly by the Belgian actor, Matthias Schoenaerts) who will eventually find redemption by bonding with a wild Mustang named Marquis (pronounced "Marcus"), part of a horse training program sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.

The film is set in a maximum security Nevada state prison where the idea is for a few of specially selected inmates to tame the horses so they can be put up for auction (with profits going to the aforementioned agency that runs the program). How can one not be enthusiastic about a film that raves about a program that reduces recidivism rates?

Despite some great cinematography and very able direction of her actors, first time French actor turned director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre simply has chosen a subject that doesn't lend itself to great drama. Part of the problem is the main character Roman; he's basically a one-note martinet who fits the bill of the generic angry inmate.

Clermont-Tonnerre attempts to flesh Coleman out with a rather predictable back story about how he ended up doing time (guilty of a domestic violence assault against his wife) along with a series of scenes in the visitor's room where his estranged daughter pays him a visit hoping he'll sign papers deeding her the family house.

The meat of the story-where Coleman must train Marquis-eventually grows tedious as the expected bonding between man and animal takes place right on schedule. Much more successful is Bruce Dern as Myles, the old codger who runs the training program. Myles proves to be much more lively than the perennially glum Coleman.

To fill up time, there is also a sub-plot involving Henry (Jason Mitchell), the inmate who teaches Coleman how to train Marquis. He falls victim to the obligatory scene of gang violence that takes place in the exercise yard.

Finally there's the very awkward ending which is designed to be both tragic and bittersweet. SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD. During the horse auction, Marquis is spooked by a helicopter passing by overhead and runs amok. Coleman is thrown to the ground and injured, leading to the closing of the horse training program (why dream that up when the whole idea is to promote the idea of the benefits of all that bonding?).

It's a setup for Myles to clue Coleman in that he can open the gates and allow Marquis to escape before he's put down. Despite the program's closing, Coleman will be "alright" in the knowledge that Marquis will roam free! All in all, I just didn't buy the ending where a program of such value is so easily eliminated.

The director here shows talent in terms of the technical aspects of film making. But the story simply devolves into almost one cliché after another. A better solution was to have done the film entirely as a documentary, eschewing the forced drama, leading to a more heady verisimilitude.
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6/10
Horse sense vs movie sense
stevenclark-4300717 April 2019
Overall "The Mustang" is entertaining if you know little or nothing about how horses really behave. The movie is created to tug at our human hearts at the expense of humane horse management and training. For instance there is no way that the horse once released into the wild will every come close to that prison again, rather it will find a herd to join up with. In true movie making style each scene is created to "wrangle the heart" of the viewer, not realistically but with intensity and drama. Working with horses takes time and much patience, which understandably can't be squeezed into a feature film. So saddle up, enjoy the movie and then learn how to really work with and train horses.
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3/10
Reasonably acted but incredibly boring
muamba_eats_toast4 September 2019
I couldn't connect or care for any of the characters the film dragged like hell with zero emotion throughout. There was nothing wrong with any specific performance within the film it just felt there was very little substance to the story and unlikely to even be conceivably possible to have happened at times.
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7/10
Decent production from novice filmmakers
TopDawgCritic18 August 2019
This film could've been award-worthy had it not been for the atrocious editing, some major plot and technical issues with the screenplay, and novice-apparent directing.

Had it not been for the exceptional cinematography by Ruben Impens with the stellar visuals and landscapes, and the amazing acting by Matthias Schoenaerts, this film would've flopped. I like Bruce Dern, but he was annoying in this film - probably from the lack of proper direction from actress-turned-director and writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. The pacing and run time were decent, as was the score.

Nevertheless, and enjoyable film and a solid 7/10 from me.
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5/10
A novel idea with a choppy, ineffective execution
~AleXa~22 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
When Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre decided to unleash The Mustang at Sundance 2019, there is little doubt that she knew she had a provocative concept that would intrigue millions. Who isn't inspired by the majesty of horses and a good underdog story? And while the scapes are breathtaking and the emotions visceral and real as best exhibited by Matthias Schoenaerts, there is something innately hollow and incomplete about the finished product.

While most hail this as a masterpiece, the majority of critics are unaware of the true plight of the Mustang and the lack of regulation on exactly how the BLM "manages the population". I had hope that one of the driving forces behind Clermont-Tonnerre's decision to choose this specific story was in fact to shed some much-needed light on this long-term problem, but alas--the extent of education the audience will receive is limited to the text at the beginning of the film.

Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is a convict serving at least ten years for some violent crime the audience is not privy to until the third act. When we first meet him, he is distant, hostile, and rigid. His first encounter with the Mustang actually beautifully showcases their similar circumstances, as he surreptitiously chooses to enter the Mustang's holding pen after hearing him pounding on the boards for days on end. It's during their second encounter that Roman shows his extreme volatile nature when he goes toe-to-toe with the Mustang in a fit of rage that he cannot control one more element of his life. This scene is particularly painful to watch for anyone that understands the psychological effects this would have on any horse, let alone when it's a wild horse that has not yet had a positive relationship with any human. In reality, this may have been a transgression that could never be mended, let alone in a matter of weeks. Beyond that, whether the scene was actually monitored by the American Humane Association was also a bit disconcerting.

In this and many other ways, the script feels rushed and sparse. Schoenaerts turns in a stellar performance in which you understand his pain and anger, however the film accelerates the plot too fast to find it believable that he suddenly comes to terms with his internal turmoil and then just starts reading up on equine literature like he's a changed man overnight.

And while through the course of the film, the audience can find themselves rooting for this beautiful lineback dun Mustang that Roman eventually named "Marquis", the haphazard way this comes about feels contrived. There was a lot of opportunity here to explore the delicate bond that can exist between man and horse, and how some basic tenants of natural horsemanship can have a profound effect on the development of that bond, and yet these dynamics are merely glossed over to serve the pace. The scenes jump from finally being able to touch him to riding with little incident.

Despite having seen almost every equine-related film, this one seems lacking the proper training and support of equine professionals to ensure the believability of the interactions. Not to mention the idea that an entire equine program could be shut down because one horse spooked at a helicopter much like the very same one that ran his entire herd into holding pens is quite frankly ludicrous, notwithstanding his ability to get the horse through not one but two broken fences. There's some underdeveloped subplots and a few unnecessary prison scenes that seem only to serve as a reminder that they are in fact in prison. Yes, we get it.

Ultimately, the inexperience of the director is clearly evident, from the generic yellow filter throughout to the uneven pacing and choppy editing. One thing the film does accomplish is allowing the audience to relate to the Mustang, feeling broken and misled. There was so much potential here... 5.0 out of 10.0

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is my personal opinion that even critics' reviews these days are highly biased, specifically when it comes to a female-led cast or a female director or a specific studio. Everyone is trying too hard to be PC instead and honest and objective. Well, I myself am a female and was well aware of the prison rehabilitation programs with both horses in the western states as well as canines, as well as having equine experience myself. Take it from me--this is no The Black Stallion (1979). There are not many films that do the genre well, but here are a few:

The Black Stallion (1979), The Man From Snowy River (1982), Return to Snowy River (1988), Hidalgo (2004), Secretariat (2010), Sylvester (1985), War Horse (2011), Dreamer (2005).
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7/10
Worth a watch
AlDoughOfficial3 September 2019
A dramatic and facinating story which kept my attention throughout. I don't know the main actor* but really liked him and thought he brought great emotion to the role. Enjoyable story - worth a watch.

*the guy, not the horse... althought the horse was excellent as well!

Plot 7/10

Acting 8/10

Ending 7/10

Duration vs interest 8/10

Soundtrack 6/10

Total 7/10
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1/10
Ten, of course! But...
tailsofthewind6 June 2020
It's a little disturbing that, in the end credits as well as in IMDb, it states that the American Humane Society monitored the animal action, and then said "NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED (R)" That doesn't mean no animals were harmed during the making of this movie. That means that, "No animals were harmed" is the registered trademark of the American Humane Society. That's an epic fail, don't you think?

This was a far cry from Monty Roberts, IMO. I know the prisoner program is out there, and they do work with the mustangs. This would save a mustang from being turned into dog food or served up in European cuisine (I wish I were kidding), as well as help heal an inmate, so this was a good story to tell, but the source material was a female inmate, wasn't it?

Why is this now a man's story?
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9/10
Gorgeous Film
cdwelcome-51-5644423 May 2020
I love the beauty of this film and the parallel between the main characters. Brilliant performance from the lead actor, gorgeous cinematography in a stark but vast landscape, and tremendous score. I'd been wanting to see this film for a while and so glad I did.
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9/10
A great character study movie and more
8512228 April 2020
Greetings from Lithuania.

"The Mustang" (2019) is a very good character study movie which also shows an interesting activity i did know about - how wild horses are being trained by inmates to later sell them at auction. Now this kind of story could have been made in a "Disney story", but this movie does not do that - its brutal and raw take on this material. We get to know a main character bit by bit during the course of this movie, mainly because he starts to feel something he did not feel for human in a long time.

Overall, "The Mustang" is a very strongly written, acted and directed movie. Main performance by a great Matthias Schoenaerts was superb - i really stared to feel for this character later in a movie. A very good movie.
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