Shootout At High Noon Marathon: Review: Open Range (2003)

In the latest entry in the Shootout At High Noon Marathon even a dirtied up Annette Bening looks damn classy!

Screenplay By: Craig Storper
Directed By: Kevin Costner

Pard. I love that word, it pains me that pard has been stricken from the English language. Think about it for a second, let the word roll around on your tongue, pard. See, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? When Robert Duvall’s character, Boss Spearman, lets loose with a pard near the end of Open Range I knew I was going to love this movie all the way to the end. The movie could have left pard out, I know it sounds silly and stupid, but the writer, the director, or even Mr. Duvall could have decided that pard didn’t quite fit that moment. Pard doesn’t sound dramatic in the way I use it, but it can be and is a dramatic word. When Boss calls Charlie by the appellation of pard their relationship is summed up perfectly. It’s not quite father and son, although it does teeter in that direction, rather it’s one of respect. Boss respects Charlie and Charlie respects Boss, the fact that Boss can call Charlie not by name, but by pard in such a crucial moment in their lives speaks volumes towards the type of men they are.

Brutal. A lot of fuss is made every now and again about the level of violence in movies. A movie like Hostel tries to present violence in the most brutal fashion, but its violence is soulless and manufactured. The adage seems to be the bloodier the better, the more graphic the more people will care and the more up in arms they will be. Open Range may not be graphically violent, but it is more brutally violent than most movies. Kevin Costner directs this tale with the bare minimum of blood splattered across the land. Yet, when Boss fires his scatter gun through the side of a shed and one of Baxter’s thugs is sent hurdling into another building, well, that was one of the most violent acts in a film I have ever seen. A major contributor to the level of violence in Open Range is the sound. Open Range is a story about quiet men, but the weapons they employ are oh so loud. Showing violence is one thing, but bringing violence to me through auditory and visual means, that is brutality on another level.

Quaint. That’s not a word I have used often on this blog. There are very few movies I think of applying the term quaint to. I immediately thought of the word quaint the first time I watched Open Range a few years ago. However, in our vocabulary quaint has taken on a bit of a negative connotation. If something is quaint, the that means it’s odd or different in some way. That’s not what I mean when I use quaint to describe Open Range. The setting fits, the characters fit, everything about Open Range evokes a feeling of belonging. I get a very happy and safe feeling when I watch Open Range. I know that this is a movie that is in control. The actors know what they are doing, Mr. Costner is sure handed behind the camera, the music is well constructed, the sets are astounding and I could go on forever. All of this adds up to that safe feeling I just mentioned, and that to me feels quaint. Open Range is very much a nostalgically attractive film, a film that belongs in the old west, it is quaint.

Beautiful. I miss the openness of a prairie that I never experienced. I’m only twenty nine years old, I know only the steel and cement of city and suburban life. I love hiking through forests, camping, taking trips to see nature. Still, I have yet to experience a part of nature that doesn’t feel enclosed in some way. I know there are areas of nature still left that are wide open and scream of the spaciousness of days long gone. Until I see those areas I only have visuals to work off of, and Open Range is an excellent visual source. The cinematography provided by J. Michael Muro is wide open, and it is stunning. From the opening shot I was impressed by the vastness of what I was seeing. That feeling never went away, even when the story moved to a town it still felt wide open. I imagined Boss looking to his right and seeing nothing but prairie for as far as his eyes could see. Mr. Muro has shot a film that is beautiful, simply beautiful.

Whew, hopefully that went over well. For some reason I felt inspired to try a little word association with Open Range. My readers are always the subjects of my experiments in writing, hopefully this one doesn’t leave you with an extra set of fingers or scales for skin. Regardless of how I formatted this review, I hope I impressed upon you how much I love Open Range. It’s a Western that will sneak up on you, it doesn’t seem like it should be anything special but it truly is. Open Range transports the viewer to a time that is slowly slipping away from the American conscious, and it presents a heck of a movie in the process. Open Range may not be one of the first Westerns you think of when pondering the genre, but maybe it should be, it is that impressive of a film.

Read what Edgar had to say at Between The Seats.




3 responses to “Shootout At High Noon Marathon: Review: Open Range (2003)

  1. Good review pard! With each viewing, I’ve come to believe it’s Costner’s best.

  2. It’s the best I’ve seen from him, and I do believe he’s a much more interesting filmmaker than people give him credit for. Even his failures- The Postman, Waterworld- are interesting failures, while something like Open Range shows how traditionally great his films can be.

  3. Pingback: Shootout At High Noon Marathon: The Wild Wild West Need Not Apply Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

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