Sunday, January 22, 2012

#410: Shane

1953, TSPDT Rank #266

Shane is a masterpiece of its genre - and quite likely the quintessential American western. The classic and simple plot of homesteaders standing up against a ruthless cattle baron is elevated to a towering allegorical fight between the ultimate good and evil. Both groups have an equally effective representative - Alan Ladd's titular character radiates strength, courage, and all that would be considered good; while Jack Palance's Wilson should be on the short list of character portrayals that are closest to evil. Whenever he is on screen, the threat of pure evil just oozes off the screen. This might be the classic western by which to judge all others, because it fully embodies the myth of the American West from almost every aspect, from its characters, to its depiction of the old-fashioned black-and-white morals, to the striking, perfect gunfight that closes the film. The staggeringly stunning cinematography paints a gorgeous and definitive picture of how the old frontier was and still is thought of in our collective psyches - as a rich, beautiful land where freedom is for the taking and the possibilities are limitless. In other words -the Promised Land. So if you look to this film for character nuance and subtle grit, you will be missing the almost biblical proportions it takes the western to. It has many flaws when you get down to its finer points - but in all the ways that matter, this is a flawless western classic.

(Rating: 10/10)

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