Author Topic: Sweetwater: not your average western!  (Read 938 times)

Offline quiller

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Sweetwater: not your average western!
« on: February 12, 2014, 11:40:27 AM »
You’d think that someone’s second (and equally low-budget) film would look fairly bad for a number of technical reasons, such as lower-quality camera lenses, ineptitude of the camera operator, director or editor.

Not so with the gorgeous panoramic shots in the 2013 western thriller Sweetwater, directed and co-written by Logan Miller. It’s a return to the John Ford era where every wide-screen shot of New Mexican scenery is essential to the story line...and for westerns it’s definitely out of the norm. It's a triumph for a $12 million film, and caught plenty of attention at the 2013 Sundance Festival.

Visually, this is a gorgeous film. Its framing is meticulous, and a joy to see what young directors are bringing to the western genre overall...and a great promo for New Mexico as well.

The story? Just when you thought they'd exhausted the wrinkles in frontier vengeance tales, somebody new finds a different one. This has dark violent humor mixed with nonviolent darker humor, on top of a gritty, honest reality of the hardship of the late 1800s in that region.

Yes, we’ve had farmers fed up with cattle-rancher atrocities. January Jones of Mad Men fills this bill and then some, in a script that’s spare on dialog and essential for what does get said---and done.

Her Mexican husband gets killed but she doesn’t learn the truth until proving a link to a fanatical “religious” leader claiming the region (including the newlyweds’ property). In the meantime, four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris (The Abyss, Gravity) is 200% on his acting game as the decidedly odd, completely unpredictable sheriff, Cornelius Jackson.

Sent by the governor to find two missing (and distant, low-class) relatives, Jackson soon suspects the “Prophet Josiah” (Jason Isaacs from Harry Potter) had them killed. The audience already knows that, but the sheer inevitability of this script makes it a delicious taut story, as the lawman finally gets to the truth...and in the meantime the new widow is doing the same.

Watching these forces collide makes for a riveting fresh take on the genre.

For once the religious villain has been given some honest motivation, offsetting his inevitable Hollywood treatment. He actually does believe what he preaches (however bad) and two scenes of his “fevers” are actually a new wrinkle in a generally negative meme. What makes this complete is the marvelous casting of  British actor Isaacs. Here at last is a villain worth watching---and that’s good, because Ed Harris absolutely thrives in the lead.

Harris was among the co-executive producers, and Sweetwater was his second film with the Kickstarter-funded creative team. He clearly likes what they’re doing, and if nothing else Cornelius Jackson makes the single most hilarious use of office furniture while firing the incompetent local sheriff, before tackling Prophet Josiah.

This film insists upon repeated viewing. Its editing is tight and music spare and highly effective. Its scenery is stupendous and the writing, direction, photography and acting are all first-rate.

It’s on-line in HD, but you can also see the “Dancing” scene where Jackson fires the last sheriff, here:

« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 11:43:54 AM by quiller »


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