Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Searchers (1956) – ★★★★½

Director: John Ford
Writers: Alan Le May (novel), Frank S. Nugent (screenplay)
Stars: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood, Ward Bond

Now this is a true Western. Made 10 years before The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Searchers really sets the benchmark for western cinema. It’s funny, sad, beautiful, and above all, thrilling. Many have called it the greatest role John Wayne ever played, and I agree that it is one of his best. For a movie 2 hours long, the time flew by. It’s an extremely entertaining masterpiece that can be viewed over and over.

Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns home to visit his brother’s family. Not long after he arrives, a tribe of Native Americans attack them while Ethan is away, and kidnap two of his young nieces. Partnered with a young man that he doesn’t take kindly to, Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), Ethan sets out to rescue his nieces, searching far and wide over the beautiful Texan deserts, encountering many different and thrilling events along the way.

John Wayne was magnificent as always as Ethan, a no-nonsense man on a mission. While he usually plays these kinds of roles, there was more emotion in this one than any other I’ve seen him play. There were scenes where he blew me away, showing that he’s not just a rough old fart. However, he almost got upstaged in this film by the brilliant Jeffrey Hunter, who was not only hilarious, but gave a brilliant performance too. There was a scene where he confronts Ethan and shouts “Ethan no you don’t!” That line gave me chills. Together, the chemistry between these two bucks were masterful, making this one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen.

The cinematography is breathtaking. I found myself constantly commenting on the scenery, as if that was just as important as the story. It is as beautiful as Lawrence of Arabia, and six years older than that masterpiece. The scenery, mixed with the excellent score by Max Steiner, set the tone of the movie. Throughout the search for his nieces there is a sense of urgency to find them. The giant desert, the conflicting Native American’s and the music really make it a thrilling film.

What really stands out in this film is the poetry of it all. The movie starts with a camera looking through an open door, as John Wayne approaches his brother’s house before all hell breaks loose. At the end, the camera is looking through another door, as John Wayne leaves, signifying that it is all over.

Everything about this film is brilliant. The Searchers lives up to its praise, and has now become one of my personal favorite western movies of all time. If you like a good western, then you’ll love this movie.

1 comment:

  1. What about the racist attitudes of the star?