Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 326 - Hombre

Hombre (1967) directed by Martin Ritt

Hombre is a familiar western in the same vein as Stagecoach where a ragtag group of individuals must survive together as they are attacked by a gang of outlaws. There are the standard array of characters led of course by Hombre, or John Russell, played by the great Paul Newman. Russell is kind of like Tarzan, a white man raised by Apache Indians, which gives him a unique perspective of both sides of the fence. He is an Indian at heart and it shows in his general disgust towards his fellow passengers. In turn, they show him equal disdain when they find out he is Indian-raised, asking him to sit on top of the carriage (with the Mexican) rather than in it with the real whites. As with Stagecoach and other ensamble casts, the true conflict isn't with an external enemy but is rather within the group itself.

In Russell we also get the iconic lone wolf character in the same ilk of Ringo the Kid and Shane. I think as a general rule the more isolated and conflicted they are, the more you can count on them to do the right thing in the end. In the film, the group finds themselves holed up with a bag full of money that the bad guys want. The bad guys are holding Mrs. Favor hostage leaving her tied up in the open to dehydrate to death. Russell has little reason to help her. She is the one who told him to move to the back of the proverbial bus and her husband, Mr. Favor, stole that money from the Apache people that raised him! Going down to save her probably means death but of course he is the one to go down to save her, proving him to be the better man.

Hombre is a quietly strong film that has more meat to it than you'd imagine. There is the rare liberal bias towards Indians (even though their spokesman is a blue eyed white man) and the smart and challenging moral dilemmas the characters must face. The film is also very well acted showcasing a wide range of characters led of course by Newman.

Grade: B+

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