An old school western that more than gets the job done. It's a tour de "fource" for Ed Harris9/10
Films are made for us to escape to a new reality, whether that reality be complete fantasy, present day, the future, or in this case, the good old West. What we have here is a great western that looks and feels like a classic in the making, an old school western with an old school touch of directing (and acting) from Ed Harris. Appaloosa is very accessible in a film genre that isn't so accessible. It's a straightforward film that, despite that, never becomes predictable and formulaic. Harris's wonderful job on all fronts make Appaloosa one of the most complete films of the year. It's got it all, great writing, killer acting, and a great atmosphere that allows the viewer to get trapped in this old western world.
Set in 1882 New Mexico, Appaloosa follows the fate of the town of the same name, which has fallen into the control of a ruthless outlaw (Jeremy Irons), and the powers that be have hired new hands to take control of the situation (Harris and Viggo Mortensen). However, when a mysterious widow (Renee Zellweger) arrives in town, loyalties will be tested, friendships will be put on trial, and guns will be fired.
The strong point, as I've said, is Ed Harris, who pulls the quadruple threat of acting, directing, writing, and producing. Despite all the work he did on this film, he still manages to turn in an Oscar worthy performance as the steadfast and unwavering commander of the town. Harris is subtle, nuanced, and never out of control. He commands the screen every time he's on it, without yelling or doing anything too crazy. Viggo Mortensen's near silent performance is not short on talent either, as one of silent acting's kings continues to show incredible versatility (the guy is a fantasy king, Russian mobster, and now an old west Deputy Marshall). To complete the trifecta of greatness, Jeremy Irons is the only guy I can imagine in the role of the film's villain. His freezing stare, mixed with the icy cold voice he is most known for, makes him one of the most memorable villains of the year.
Renee Zellweger really didn't add anything to the movie, though her character wasn't too interesting, and just serves as a plot device. This is what keeps the film from getting that "10" from me. The rest of the supporting cast is really a non-issue, as the story really only revolves around a few characters.
What I enjoyed most about the film is that it really made me feel like I was out west...right down to the little details, such as sandstorms, the presence of Native Americans, small drawls from the actors (thankfully none besides Zellweger had a bad one), and the different kinds of horses & guns in the film. Harris keeps the film moving nicely, and there's only a few moments where I felt it dragged a bit. Like I've said, it's hard to find a real fault here...the film is just well done all around, from a production standpoint.
When all is said and done, I knew how I felt about this film the second the lights went on. I clapped and said, "that was great". Appaloosa is an old school western that has everything a fan of the genre could want...including a suspenseful and tense gunfight and crazy Native Americans on horses! It's definitely one of the most complete westerns and films I've seen this year, and should be in contention for a few awards come Oscar season.