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How many movies have inspired you to read the original book or story right after you’ve watched it? You might think of films like The Kite Runner, Atonement, or Away From Her. But a cowboy flick?

Yes, it sure did for me. And while I’m still looking for Elmore Leonard’s book Three-Ten to Yuma and other stories to read his short story, the source material for this film, I can’t wait to write the movie review. It’s also timely because of the recent release of the DVD.

This is one film that should have received a lot more attention at the Oscars. It got two nominations, one in Original Score, the other in Sound. Well it did get a nod from the Screen Actors Guild for an Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination. It’s also a nominee for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Ben Foster) Satellite Awards.  But if it’s being touted as the best Western since Unforgiven, then why aren’t there any more commotion? Anyway, I’m here to stir some ripples.

This is a modern remake of the highly acclaimed 1957 movie with Glenn Ford. I missed that one. This new version sees Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster and Peter Fonda join hands to create an action movie with a heart and mind. In a way, it’s one typical western, with gunslinging outlaws, headed by the notorious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), aided by his despicable right-hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), a defenceless cattleman (Christian Bale) and his family, and a few lawmen pathetically trying to enforce some sort of law and order.

I’m captivated by the riveting sequences and twists of the plot leading to the engrossing climax at the end. Anything typical is only a backdrop for the ultimate moral dilemma it sets up for its main characters. Basically it’s a duel of will and conscience for Crowe and Bale. 15 year-old Logan Lerman is right on a par with these two veteran actors.

The movie surprises me with the intense and deep depiction of psychological battles, internal conflicts, and moral choices one has to make in the face of life and death. Its fast action scenes, effective camera works and great acting from the whole cast mask the deeper issues the story is challenging us to ponder: What makes a man? What is the most important legacy a father can leave to a son? I say mask because you think you’re just watching, but actually you’re thinking. How we need this kind of movies these days. The poignant ending is what makes the film beautiful and rewarding.

From Jane Austen to Elmore Leonard…it’s all about life.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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