With a stellar cast of Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delany, Jason Priestly, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Zane, John Corbett, and the late Charlton Heston, this film proves to be a real classic. Kurt Russell plays Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer plays Doc Holliday, in which is no doubt the best role he ever played. This film chronicles the events leading up to the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral between Wyatt Earp and his brothers versus the evil Clanton gang. While I could simply recount the events in the film, I have a feeling most people have seen this classic by now, and if you have not, then you definitely should. However, I want to focus on the deeper meanings existing throughout this film.
Wyatt Earp represents everything good in life. He is as pure as silk, but he is no pushover. He stands up for what he believes in, he strives to find the truth in all events, and he protects the ones he loves at all cost, even the ultimate cost if necessary. Russell gives a brilliant acting performance, which is par for the course for him, and truly brings Wyatt Earp to life. While there are many great actors and characters in the film, Wyatt Earp is the backbone, the bread and butter, the glue that holds all the other characters together. He epitomizes good, he epitomizes integrity, and he epitomizes leadership. Granted, he has his shortcomings, as we all do, but he understands these shortcomings and figures out how to overcome them in order to reach his goals and find success on all levels. In many ways, Earp is the old west's version of Michael Jordan, and Russell's brilliant acting brings these qualities to light.
However, while Earp is the glue, Doc Holliday is the "stuff" being glued together. He is the fire, the spark, the "IT" factor that takes this film from a history lesson to an adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the opening scene to the final moment when he tells Wyatt Earp, "If you were ever my friend, you'll leave now." Of all the pivotal and moving moments in a film, I think the moment when Wyatt Earp looks at Doc for the final time, pauses for a beat, sets the cards down, nods at Doc, and simply walks out, is one of the most powerful moments I've personally ever seen on film. One can see their friendship, the trials and tribulations they have been through, the love and respect they have for each other, and the fear they both feel for what the future is about to bring. It is all represented in this one scene, and this scene epitomizes what Doc Holliday brings to Tombstone. Val Kilmer, in my opinion, gives the best performance of his career. For a lack of a better term, he is brilliant. Every line is delivered with impeccable timing and has an impact as vicious as Lawrence Taylor used to attack opposing quarterbacks. Holliday brings humor, brings passion, brings determination, brings desire, and brings loyalty to Tombstone. He represents how a broken man continues to persevere and while he, like Earp, has his own hang-ups, he refuses to let his sins interfere with his friendship. Holliday is determined to help Earp and his brothers defeat the Clanton gang, and when asked by the Clanton's why he has fought so hard, Holliday responds-"Wyatt Earp is my friend", and Clanton's response is "Well, I have many friends", and Holliday looks him dead in the eye and says, "Well, I don't". To me, this line illustrates beautifully what Holliday is all about and what he believes in. I can honestly say tears welled up in my eyes when he passes towards the end of the film. Holliday gives us hope as humans, he shows us, even in amidst of all of our faults, we can still achieve greatness, we can still be champions.
Tombstone brings so much to the table. It is of course a classic good vs. evil struggle with good prevailing, but it is so much more. It shows us when to hold on to our pride and when to let go, and it shows us that friendship is one of the most powerful assets we can possess. Tombstone is a great character study of two American heroes, and it shows us that even heroes have their flaws, but heroes are able to embrace and overcome their flaws to reach the promise land. The acting is brilliant, from Sam Elliott to Dana Delany to Kurt Russell, everyone is excellent in my opinion and every scene seems to have a purpose, a conflict, and a resolution. More importantly, this film gives us hope for a brighter future, even when all seems completely bleak.