Set during the pioneer era, The Homesman subverts the usual trajectory of westerns set in this time by instead focusing on a journey from what will eventually become Nebraska territory in the West to more Eastern Iowa, wherein defeat via the frontier is a primary concern, whether it be a defeat of the mind, body, soul, or all together. Director Tommy Lee Jones’s last theatrically released film was The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), a contemporary neo-western with shades of Sam Peckinpah in its flavour. The Homesman may have the set dressing of a more traditional, old-school genre entry, but this film, adapted from Glendon Swarthout’s 1988 novel, is much more offbeat than one might expect.
Tim Blake Nelson
If you can imagine Nixon resigning in the middle of All the President’s Men, with the remainder of the film dedicated to Woodward and Bernstein fighting their editor, you have a pretty good idea how Kill the Messenger plays out. It’s not a bad film, but it is a sloppy one that squanders a firecracker start and a terrific performance from Jeremy Renner. As Gary Webb ponders whether to publish his inflammatory story, he is advised that, “Some stories are just too true to tell.” Such is the case with some scripts, which, in their admirable haste to relate the truth, forget the requirements of compelling storytelling. If you want to find the heart of Webb’s story, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.