Featured Movie Review of the Week!

We are pleased to welcome on board guest film reviewer Chris Vaughan of 2011 a Film Odyssey .  Chris has undertaken to review 365 films in 365 days – no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination!

We will be selecting one review per week to feature on the whatsonni blog for our readers.  What we love about Chris’s endeavour is that his reviews are all encompassing  irrespective of budget, language or subject matter – not just the lastest releases but this week for example he has reviewed Conviction, The Searchers and The Last Exorcism. Chris has an obvious passion and enthusiasm for cinema – if you enjoy the reviews from 2011 : A Film Odyssey maybe you could even suggest/request a particular movie review?

Our choice this week is Chris’s review of The Searchers, a particular favourite of ours here at the whatsonni office. I personally remember watching this movie with my father as a child and if I see it on a listing I will still go out of my way to watch it over and over again.  Enjoy!

Confession time. This is the first John Wayne film I have ever seen. Pretty much the first Western I have seen too. It is a genre that has long put me off. Hammy acting and lazy scripting being my main demotivating factors. I had read a lot about The Searchers and had often seen it highly rated amongst not only Westerns but cinema in general. I have got to say I was pleasantly surprised. John Wayne is cast as the monumental Ethan Edwards. A mysterious character who has returned to his family home in a remote Texas outpost from The Civil War. Little is known of Ethan’s background, aside from his military history and deep knowledge of Indian language, tradition and culture. I had never appreciated Wayne’s dominating physical stature. The man his huge and his considerable frame makes for an intimidating screen presence.

Ethan’s family is ambushed by a wandering Indian tribe. His brother, sister-in-law and nephew are murdered, while the family’s two young daughters are kidnapped. The young girls are to be assimilated into the Indian tribe. And so goes a now familiar tale of kidnap and revenge. A more contemporary theme of racial tension is tangible throughout. Groundbreaking for the time in it’s measured exploration of cultural identity. Director John Ford portrays equal acts of bloody brutality from both sides. A posse of locals is soon rounded up to form a search party. Ethan scours the isolated wilderness for years in search of his kin.

The film is hugely influential in refining the portrayal of the lone hero. Scorcese’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver is informed by the tortured loneliness of Ethan Edwards and Werner Herzog’s lingering landscapes are lifted directly from Ford’s Monument Valley. In fact it is hard to see movies such as Die Hard or Rambo existing if it wasn’t for this picture. However, despite it’s wide influence I felt that the scope of Ethan’s journey wasn’t conveyed effectively. Barren Texas desert moved to snowy river in one dated looking fade-out cut scene. The desperation of the search and its vastness could have been clearer. I had no feeling that 5 years had lapsed over the duration of his mission.

The Searchers is well worth a watch. I didn’t get as much from it as I thought I would. I looked on it more of a lesson in film-making than a riveting thriller. Perhaps I need to watch some more Westerns to fully understand the grandeur of this movie. It may well be the pinnacle of Western film-making, but for me it does not stand up to classics like The Godfather, Citizen Kane or Rear Window. For anyone into Westerns this is obviously a must see, for anyone interested in film-making please check this movie out to discover what informed some of the all time great directors and movies through the years.

2011 : A Film Odyssey is the movie review site of Chris Vaughan.

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