Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Reviews
Any movie that's got so many of my favorite classic actors in it I could watch it over and over just for that. But the plot is good. The music, cinematography, all good. I think it's underrated.
Billy the Kid is a man of Western history who many tell stories of just like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Frank and Jesse James. But Pat Garrett is a name I am not all that familiar with, so a tale which tells the story of both him and Billy the Kid sounded interesting, and there is really not a better man to helm the story than legendary western director Sam Peckinpah.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is one of the most brilliantly stylish western films I have ever seen in my life. While its colour palette maintains a very monochromatic feel which is a greyish sepia, the colour of the dirt and stone which reinforces the dry feeling of the frontier, it manages to be lit so perfectly that it captures many tones of the dirt and manages to feel bright and energetic yet grim at the same time. The scenery in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is flawlessly convincing and depicts the grim nature of the frontier flawlessly. Admittedly it took no time before I was sucked into Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid on the simple basis of its style. I mean, the setting is so convincing and reminiscent of the time that western films were in their heyday that I was easily able to lose myself in the film. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was one of the most unforgettable western visual experiences of my life, and it essentially reaffirmed my love of western cinema.
Considering that Sam Peckipah is hailed as one of the greatest western film directors of his time, it is no surprise that his handling of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was excellent. The man himself is known for incorporating violence and blood into his films which proves to be the case with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Unlike many westerns which simply have men falling off their horses when shot, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has blood flying out of their backs when they are shot in the chest. It is fairly brutal yet perfect and reinforces the realism of the film as well as the true violent nature of the old west. Sam Peckinpah applies his iconic visual style to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid which proves to be of seriously major benefit to the story, and it ensures that the film is an unforgettable stylish western experience.
Boasted an excellent production design and fine costumes to combine with the nice dry scenery of the film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid also has everything captured with ease by gently moving cinematography which is edited in perfect time. Frankly, every visual aspect of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is unforgettable and it is an undeniably stylish experience which puts good use of funds in. A lot of traditional western films tend to use extensive shots from a distance with minimal editing, but breaking new ground John Coquillon manages to use widescreen cameras to get a lot of close up shots of the actors' faces to enhance the character driven feel of the film while also taking shots from a reasonable distance which manage to capture a lot of things in frame without ever transcending the actual scale of the film and attempting to go into epic territory. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid stays firmly in the character-based roots of its story and never tries to be anything more than it should be, so it is an invigorating and refreshing piece of filmmaking which came at a time when people were beginning to question if they should follow traditional values, as in the counterculture movement of the 60's and 70's, as well as dealing with such themes that were prevalent at the time including betrayal and such.
Combined with the visual style is an unforgettable soundtrack. As well as providing some nostalgic country themed tunes, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid makes use of an interesting contemporary pieces such as Bob Dylan's original "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" among others. The beautiful country music in the film makes it very atmospheric and gives it a genuine western and country feel. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a paradigm of a western experience and reminds us just what kind of a skilled director Sam Peckinpah was.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has no problem telling its story and doing it honestly. It covers the stories of both Billy the Kid living as an outlaw and Pat Garrett as he attempts to bring him to justice. The story is structured well because it tells both stories as they run parallel at a gentle pace without excessively jumping back and forth between each story. The balance in the story structure of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is excellent and it lets the story unfold at develop very smoothly. Audiences not familiar with the slow style of western cinema may find that it doesn't grab them as much as was the case with me the first time I watched Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, but after becoming more acquainted with the genre and understanding its norms including the general style and pacing of such films, I was able to appreciate Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid for being the artistic masterpiece of western cinema that it was.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid also benefits from a terrific script. Boasting Rudy Wurlitzer's natural ability to write intelligent dialogue and good story direction, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid manages to come out as an intelligently written western which is given the best of treatment by Sam Peckinpah and delivered with passionate gusto by the skillful cast lined up.
Taking on the titular role of Pat Garrett, legendary actor James Coburn delivers his role with unflinching strength and heroism. The man's name is easily associated with heroic roles as well as films with rough material to deal with, so he has the appropriate name to be taking on such a role. And with such ease and natural strength as an actor, he easily sinks into the role and adopts the fearless values of law enforcement in the frontier without difficulty. James Coburn takes on the role of Pat Garrett with skillful ease and charisma, and he interacts with the surrounding cast easily.
And Kris Kristofferson gives one of the finest performances of his career. The best of Kris Kristofferson's acting can be seen in western films, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is quite possibly the finest example of it. Putting his natural charisma and youthful charm into the role of William H. Bonney / Billy the Kid, and he delivers the performance flawlessy by sinking his characterisation of the man into the natural way of living as a man during frontier times. He captures character elements that suggest he adapted to the setting long ago, and he removes any elements that have him left as being a simply young and senseless man of the west. Kris Kristofferson plays Billy the Kid as he most likely truly would have been by sticking to western archetypes will injecting his natural acting talent into the role, and his handsome face makes him iconic for playing the character. Kris Kristofferson is unforgettable for his role in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and his chemistry with James Coburn is excellent as it has a certain rough tension to it.
Jason Robards' small time on screen was effective also due to his natural ability to play a character with true grit, and he made an important contribution to the cast.
Bob Dylan's small role was good as well and it is good to have him acting in the film as well as contributing to the soundtrack.
So all in all, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is one of the most unforgettable western masterpieces I have ever seen. It has an excellent visual style to it which doesn't skimp on the blood or a beautiful soundtrack, and it captures a great western feel thanks so some of Sam Peckinpah's greatest skills as a film director and excellent performances from James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.
From the outset of the film, the viewer already knows the fates of Billy and Pat, and the characters themselves seem to know it as well, that they'll both die at the hands of the same violence and the same men whom they once stood behind. Coburn's portrayal of the bitterly reluctant sheriff is the best performance of his career. Kristofferson plays an effortlessly charming Billy the Kid, but theres something in his demeanor that suggests a deep sadness and regret about the life he's led, probably the most powerful performance in the film. Peckinpah perfectly taps in to a sense of longing for a lost innocence that both lead characters seem to share, even as they hurtle themselves through a path of self destruction, while their friends and accomplices are killed in their wake.
Bob Dylan's soundtrack is absolutely perfect, Peckinpah uses Dylan's somber music as a reminder during even the most spectacular and triumphant scenes that there are no real personal or moral victories for either character a midst the blood-letting and pursuit, as both know where their destinies will ultimately lead them. Peckinpah's finest film and final western is the perfect farewell letter to a genre that catapulted him to fame but also led him to his own personal destruction. Powerful cinema at its finest and remains my favorite movie of all time.