Movie Review: The Old Way
I don’t like Westerns in general, so I was dubious about this one but I’m really glad we decided to watch it last night. It’s a really good movie with an excellent cast. It’s a rather traditional vengeance tale handled in a rather clever way. I highly recommend it. Now I’m going to do a breakdown of some of my favorite parts, so there will be spoilers. On the surface, this has nothing to do with Heathenry, save that vengeance is sometimes a sacred obligation within our tradition. When you really examine it though, it goes well beyond just vengeance. It is a deeply Heathen story, and encapsulates our values and expresses them in the new world, in that idiom, and in ways that resonate with our experiences here.
I like the title, was initially put off that it was a Western, and then watched it and ended up pre-ordering the dvd.
Firstly, I really like that it was a Father-Daughter story. Had it been a Father-Son story, I think it would have lacked the charge. It would have been just another typical coming-of-age story. I often dislike stories where women or girls are shoehorned in because “muh feminism.” It usually makes for an irritating female character and a poorly written story. I much prefer that good stories be told, regardless of who is involved. Here, the story was written in minimalist strokes, but all the characters were fleshed out beautifully. We knew all we needed to know about the dynamics between them, and both the female characters were written very well. They weren’t shoved in to meet some requirement to have a woman in the story, but were integral characters.
The movie opens with a flash back to when the main character, Colton Briggs (Cage), was still a gunslinger. He kills a man in front of that man’s son. I immediately turned to my husband and said, “He needs to kill that kid.” I’ve read my sagas. I know that leaving someone alive like that leads to bad things happening years later. I was right. After this opening, we see the same gunslinger as a shopkeeper, with a wife and daughter and it’s clear that he’s besotted with his wife. His daughter is painted as neuro-divergent (that language isn’t used but given the jellybean scene, she reads as autistic or – we find out later – possibly borderline sociopathic. I’m not equating the two, but there’s something non-neurotypical with the girl, and the movie implies,with her father too and it’s unclear if it’s both conditions or just one. It’s not really relevant save that we see they don’t fit in. There’s a great scene where he tells her that she needs to learn to pretend and behave like others if she can’t feel it, or she’s going to be shunned–so learn to play the game. Then she has to distract a US Marshal by fake crying and it’s creepy as fuck).
Anyway, the girl Brooke and her father return from his store and find that the mother has been, at the very least, brutally murdered. The woman dies having laughed in the faces of her murderers, knowing she will be well and properly avenged. While the Marshals try to prevent the vengeance, Colton Briggs is mindful of his obligation and sets off with his daughter to track down the men who slaughtered his wife. He teaches his daughter how to shoot at her request, and tells her that until he met her mother, he never knew fear. She is her father’s daughter and handles every challenge with unemotional aplomb.
Things proceed as expected – it is a vengeance western after all. The plot line is pretty narrow and predictable but that’s ok. The power of this story is in how you get to that point and in the deepening dynamic between father and daughter. Her emotionless façade cracks at the end, and she is the one to avenge her mother…and her father. She’s smart, really smart, and observant throughout the movie and let’s just say, gets away with some serious loot.
I won’t say more than that. If you like Yellowstone and its iterations, you’ll like this story. If you think modern law is just, you probably won’t. If you have an issue with actual masculinity, you won’t like this at all because in the end, it’s about a father and daughter restoring frith, the old way.
Posted on January 30, 2023, in Uncategorized and tagged Heathenry, movie reviews, Northern tradition, vengeance, Westerns. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Movie Review: The Old Way.