The Iron Horse Reviews
April 3, 2008
The message of this movie: John Ford is in love with Abraham Lincoln.
Why do some silent films have to be so long? Honestly. It's hard enough to watch silent film sometimes, but it can be really challenging when the movies spans over two-and-a-half hours. Thank goodness the movie was pretty solid.
I accidentally watched two Transcontinental Railroad movies in a week. I'm probably the first person to ever write that sentence. But according to the 501 Must See Movies, I had to see both of these. The Brit who probably wrote this this is an American history nerd who thought the expansion of the West was fodder for great filmmaking. Luckily, he picked some amazing movies. The only weird part is that they both tell history slightly different. (Take that, Critical Literacy!) In Union Pacific, the story implies that the Union Pacific made it to the destination first. The Iron Horse straight up says that the Central Pacific made it to its destination first. Who to believe? NO ONE!
The Iron Horse has a lot less character drama in it compared to Union Pacific. That's really unfortunate, because Union Pacific is really a fun movie while this one is kind of left to "good" movie. It's a lot more of the "hows" of how the Transcontinental Railroad was made and not the people. Yes, there's the story of Brandon, which is really the most interesting part, but he has to share half-the-film with the technical aspects. Unlike Tora! Tora! Tora!, at least the historical aspects are really interesing and people do flips on horses and stuff. (Rather than just talk...*groan*.)
Again, for a silent film, this movie does look pretty fantastic. There's some cool shots of horse chases and some interesting improvized fist fights. I am happy that I've seen Union Pacific first simply because it explained why people wanted to destroy the railroad. Ford doesn't so much explain why people don't want the railroad to exist, we're just supposed to know our history. Sorry, despite the degree, I don't know everything.