When one hears that a new Kevin Costner film is opening there might be a slight pause. But there is no reason to pause before going to see Open Range. After all the summer movies, with car chases and hectic gun battles, it is nice to see an old fashioned westernWhen one hears that a new Kevin Costner film is opening there might be a slight pause. But there is no reason to pause before going to see Open Range. After all the summer movies, with car chases and hectic gun battles, it is nice to see an old fashioned western.
Open Range follows two men, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner), who have spent a decade riding together and live by their own western code. That code is challenged when a local land owner Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) sets out to run them off because they are grazing their cattle near his land. In the process Spearman and Waite see their friends die and their liberty stolen. The two men do not take this lying down and calmly go about setting things right in their own way.
Now you might be saying – well that sounds like any other western. And you might be partially right. What makes this western particularly worth watching is the portrayal of the characters and relationship of these two men. Time is taken to show who they are and what motivates them. Boss Spearman is a man who has to make a concerted effort to kill people while Charley Waite has to try hard not too. They value loyalty and friendship to the nth degree. By the time they are ready to fight you actually have a vested interest in what happens. When characters are not well developed I don’t really care who lives or who dies. But in Open Range, even though I had a pretty good idea of what the end would be, I was on the edge of my seat worried for the characters and shouting advice to them in my head. I can’t say that for a lot of movies.
In addition to time well spent in painting a picture of friendship and loyalty, Open Range is directed and acted skillfully. Costner as director uses wide expanses of prairie and realistic action sequences, to let the audience know what it was like to be there but that this could actually happen. No one is a perfect shot but the fight sequences are shot perfectly. No one is superhuman – they are just human. Robert Duval has perfectly captured a man who is getting a little too old to being sleeping on the prairie every night and Kevin Costner (as an actor) has breathed new life into the strong silent gun slinger. The supporting cast helps complete the western portrait, including Annette Bening’s adept depiction of a frontier woman whose prospects are dwindling with time.
Now if you like movies that move at the speed of light and have more rounds fired from a gun than humanly possible this might not be the movie for you. The tempo is steady – it slows down and speeds up as needed. This pace serves it well as a movie to end the summer and begin the fall Oscar race. It’s also provides an opportunity to see Costner get back on that horse. Hopefully, after this he will stay on it.Let's just hope Costner can stay on the horse this time.