The Outlaw Josey Wales

November 13, 2009
By TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
TheGothicGunslinger ELITE, Lakeland, Florida
177 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To be great is to be misunderstood" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where, oh where, to begin with this film? To put it simply, I absolutely loved this movie. Whether it be Clint Eastwood's amazing performance as Josey Wales - one of his best roles ever, if I dare say so, Eastwood's direction, the gritty yet revisionist style of the film, or the exploration of the various lifestyles during the Civil War, The Outlaw Josey Wales has all of the ingredients for a great and epic Western.

The film revolves around the titular Josey Wales, who begins as a humble family-man, rather than the spiteful outlaw he'll later develop in to. With his wife and child, he leads a small farmtown life which is free of care from the outside worries of the Civil War. This doesn't last long, however, with Union supporting "Redlegs" - guerrilla warriors - coming to Mr. Wales' farm and either taking or killing all he holds dear. After burying his dead son, Wales vows revenge and comes to join a group of Southern guerrilla warriors, doing just about all they can to go past "the limit" in terms of handling Union soldiers, such as hanging or shooting POWs.

The ever-classic tale of revenge is told brilliantly in Josey Wales, with Josey Wales' character developing throughout the film. He's constantly asked why he kills and if his revenge will ever be complete, and Wales only replies, in a partly depressing partly hateful voice, that killing is the only thing he has left to do. All of the characters in the film are great and wonderfully treated, including the smaller characters such as Grandma Sarah or Laura Lee.

The film also has a really interesting tone, partly being revisionist in styles whilst maintaining the dark romanticism Eastwood was accustomed to while working with Sergio Leone, director of The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly and possibly the greatest director of all-time. The film also uses very little, if any, lighting in its shots, relying heavily on natural shadows and darkness to tell its tale. This works amazingly well, especially in a few shots which involve seeing Eastwood's character in the distance - a gloomy, yet provocative figure on the horizon.

The film is also, very thankfully, fair in its treatment of its Native American characters. One of the greatest annoyances of the typical Western are the negative and skewed stereotypes of all Indians being stoic, humorless individuals. Instead, these characters are shown to be just as "normal", for lack of a better term, as any of the other characters of the time.

I also was interested by the anti-North sentiments found in the film. Up until this point, the North was always portrayed as being the righteous and intellectual of the two sides, leaving the South to be portrayed as racist redneck hicks. The movie shows that, though the North did have a lot of moral points the South didn't, the soldiers of both sides had an equal amount of 'crazies' - ruthless, immoral, and greedy pillagers - on their respective sides.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is, in many aspects, an amazing example of Western cinema. Sadly, I do have some complaints. First, the film drags incredibly slowly for the first twenty minutes. I can understand trying to show us why Josey Wales does the thing he does, but it felt like it was a really long exposition to the rest of the movie. Next, the romance between Wales and Laura Lee, while it made more sense than your typical Western, still felt kind of shallow.

Regardless, The Outlaw Josey Wales is simply a fun and engaging Western, mixing the dark romanticism and shoot-outs of spaghetti Westerns with the realism of revisionist Westerns.

9/10 - Fantastic

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