His Dark Materials
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The mustang doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground and it’s a bit predictable but the film is extremely well-made. Performances are top notch in the movie does show a bit side of compassion again someone in prison and taking on the task of caring for horses. Cinematography is good and it has a good message and story. Again there’s nothing about the movie groundbreaking it’s just an easy enjoyable watch.
Now this is what I call a winner!
I honestly didn't know anything about this going into it. I'm not a huge horse person either so the poster did little to draw me in. Thankfully there was so much more to this than just a "horse movie".
This was smart, well thought out and had some incredible cinematography throughout. You don't often see a film that can combine the elements this did in such a convincing way that actually makes for a good film.
I know that a film like this isn't made for the mainstream audience but I really wish that more people would give films like this a chance. This is the simple, well told story that makes my journey each year so great. No, this probably won't even get nominated for an Oscar but it was an hour and 36 minutes well spent in my opinion!
This was 4/5 horsepower for me!
Powerful how an animal can connect with our soul and enlighten our spirit!
Forming the bond. So this is about an inmate named Roman (Matthias Schoenarts). He doesn't have much in the way of friends or even family, but he is given the opportunity to participate in an in-house rehabilitation program involving training mustangs to sell for the prison's profit. Will he be able to break one of the wildest horses there, even though he doesn't have any background with animals? Now I watched this one pretty cold. I knew that it involved prisoners and I knew that it involved horses, but that was about it. I thought that this was directed by the great Robert Redford, but he is actually only a producer on this, which makes more sense because he is supposed to be retired. I usually connect with animal movies if they can hit the right notes, and I feel like this is one of the better ones out there. Now I do admittedly have a soft spot for these majestic creatures. I think this is slightly better than something like Lean on Pete, and I'm not just saying that because that movie is a Debbie Downer. The Mustang is a movie that is very small in scope, but I actually appreciated that aspect of it. Breaking it down to bare basics, this is just a story of a guy and a horse that are very similar in personality. The horse is viewed as being wild and untamable, and while Roman is standoffish, it's never to the point of being psychotic; a few anger management issues, perhaps, but it is more along the lines that he has just caught a bad break, just like the horse. They got a really good animal actor here, but more than that, I really admired the acting of Schoenarts; I've seen him in the past and liked him, but this took it to another level for me. He's got a mysterious background which makes him more interesting, and they also surrounded him with great character actors, like Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, and Jason Mitchell. Not everything about The Mustang is a home run. There is this subplot involving drugs that really only seems to be a means to show you the nitty-gritty of prison life, and if you subtract that from the equation, they were actually doing a great job of avoiding prison clichés. That is something that I am willing to overlook because everything else is so good in this and it makes up such a small portion of the film. This is a real program in some states, which is a fact that I would otherwise be completely oblivious to, and I loved how this showcases the respect-building that comes with earning the trust of these animals.
Nothing you haven't seen before, but it's very well-made and genuinely moving
The pitch for The Mustang is as hackneyed as it gets – a dangerous convict given a shot at redemption by working with a dangerous horse, and as the man tames the animal, the animal tames the man. However, despite its derivative underpinnings, The Mustang has been made with such craft that it transcends the clichés. And yes, chances are everything you think might happen does, but the acting, the emotional beats, and the authenticity all contribute to the whole, wherein it turns out the familiarity of the destination doesn't matter so much when the journey is so well executed.
In a Nevada jail, the emotionally shut down Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is serving a 12-year bit and upon being released from solitary, he's assigned to clean up the horse dung from the mustangs used in the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP), wherein the inmates "gentle" the animals – essentially, tame them so they can be sold at auction. Given the chance to work with an especially unruly horse that's considered unbreakable, Coleman names him Marquis (although he mispronounces it as Marcus), and sets about trying to connect with the horse in a way he hasn't connected with anyone or anything in many years.
Written by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Mona Fastvold, and Brock Norman Brock and based on de Clermont-Tonnerre's short Rabbit (2014), The Mustang is her feature directorial debut. As the opening and closing legends tell us, WHIP is real, with prisons in 13 states adopting it, and research showing there is a significant dip in recidivist rates amongst inmates who have worked with the horses.
Despite the narrative outline suggesting otherwise, The Mustang is not a sentimental film. De Clermont-Tonnerre avoids, for example, romanticising the relationship between Coleman and Marquis; they don't have a psychic bond, rather they connect emotionally, nothing more. Their relationship is not an opportunity for glib esotericism regarding the human condition, it's a simple friendship.
In terms of acting, this is Schoenaerts's film. We've see him do quiet brooding intensity before, in films like Rundskop (2011), De rouille et d'os (2012), and Maryland (2015), but he's exceptionally good at it and is rarely less than mesmerising to watch.
Aesthetically, Coleman is repeatedly connected with Marquis. For example, the film opens on a close-up of a mustang's eye, and the first time we see Coleman, it's a BCU of him opening his eyes. Later, there's a shot in which he's reflected in Marquis's eye and a scene where they are both pinned to the ground, facing one another. Also, when Coleman is confined to his cell, we see him pacing back and forth and punching the wall, recalling Marquis's earlier behaviour in his stall. Sure, none of this is subtle, but it is effective, with de Clermont-Tonnerre communicating emotions and themes visually.
A major theme is the danger of losing self-control. An anger management class sees the prison psychologist (Connie Britton) ask each prisoner how long passed between the thought of their crime and its execution, and how long have they been in jail. None say there was more than a few seconds between thought and deed. The point is clear; a split-second decision has landed then in prison for years. It could be a scene out of any prison documentary (it would have fit right into The Work (2017), about the Inside Circle program in Folsom), and it's a good example of de Clermont-Tonnerre hanging back when she needs to.
Of course, the film is not perfect. We've all seen pretty much everything in The Mustang, and for some, the familiarity will be off-putting. A bigger issue is a subplot involving Dan (Josh Stewart), Coleman's cellmate, who blackmails him into smuggling ketamine into the prison. This subplot feels like it's been imported from another film entirely, and these scene are the weakest and the most inauthentic in the film. The narrative needs Coleman to be at a certain place at a certain time, and de Clermont-Tonnerre uses this storyline to facilitate that. But there were far more organic ways to have accomplished this without resorting to a subplot that is so tonally divorced from everything around it.
On paper, this is a clichéd social protest film with a standard redemption arc, but de Clermont-Tonnerre fashions it into something emotionally authentic. She embraces, for the most part, non-judgmental restraint, simplicity, and sincerity, and more than once communicates meaning visually. Her intimate direction and Schoenaerts's committed performance allow the film to remain always genuine and respectful, as she suggests that when you treat someone like a human being, you may find their humanity. And the most fascinating and beautifully handled trope is that Coleman's humanity could only be found, drawn out, and nurtured by an animal.
It's such a terrifically nuanced character study and Schoenaerts is perfect throughout. Perhaps there are some scenes that feel repetitive in showing Roman's coping with the horse, and I kind of wish his daughter had more of a presence in the third act, but it's still a fresh perspective on prison movies..and...horse movies.
Not a sugar coated formula story. Two rough characters, horse and prisoner that learn to understand each other.
Decent movie but very predictable.
The movie is shot beautifully and the bigger name actors deliver excellent supporting performances but without the performance of Matthias Schoenaerts this movie would fall apart. He conveys all the emotions needed with minimal amount of lines. The redemption story progresses in small steps and a way that feels real. One of the best movies I've seen this year.
As a horse person, a film person, and a practical person i think the storyline was pretty good, but everything else was not so good. Maybe it just ain't feasible to take two complex lifeforms (humans and wild horses) and tell a story in 120 mins.
I felt lost when they brought WILD horses into the cafeteria, when the guy punches the horse multiple times without the horse kicking the crap out of him, and there's no way in hell that inmates would have access to Ketamine.
The extent to which the film was dumbed down made it hard to watch.