I'll open this review by saying that this is the best film I've seen so far in 2007 as of September 10th. Begining to end this is a stunning film full of human emotion lead by the tremendous leading performances by Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, perhaps the two best actors working in cinema today. It's such a refreshing film to see too after months of popcorn cinema as this is probably the first adult film that has come out of Hollywood in about 4-5 months.
Russell Crowe plays outlaw Ben Wade needing to get out of the sticky situation he's in to Christian Bale's rancher Dan Evans who's just trying to do what's best for his family. The plot is about making a trip to a train to deliver the murderer and robber Wade to prison and eventually a hanging. Evans is forced to help out in order for him to pay off the mortgage of his land.
This is a film about what's right and wrong and the ego of man, but not in a black and white easy solution way. Things are very grey in this world and so are the characters who are all doing what they think is right for themselves. James Mangold is turning into a terrific filmmaker as this film is just as good as his terrific Walk the Line (2005) film.
It's good to see Russell Crowe act in anything as he is one of the greatest actors ever to hold the screen in the 100 years of cinema. Seeing him play a murdering, bible quoting artist is very fun indead to watch. Most actors would of tried to chew the scenery in a role like this, but Crowe plays it as cool as the character Elmore Leonard initially created. But its Bale who portrays the tougher performance as the conflicted rancher, husband and father who's anger and insecurity about his past and present situation is a role that's hard to portray without showing any phony sentimentality. And Bale plays it just right.
Any actor who thinks they have some talent should watch this film over and over again to study two men working at their best in their chosen profession.
This is a film that could of easily been thrown off balance in its complicated, mature themmatics. But Mangold holds everything together by not over directing the scenes. He let's the actors tell the story with the camera and not the camera tell the story while having the actors catch up like a lot of the newer generation filmmakers seem to be doing these days. This is simply a film about two guys stuck in a situation who admire each other but have too much pride to ever admit it. Mangolds understands each scene and knows what needs to be done.