Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1973: James Coburn in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid

James Coburn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Pat Garrett in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.

Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid is a fairly effective western about sheriff Pat Garrett tracking down outlaw Billy The Kid. It is not great though as some of the seventies qualities become tiresome after awhile particularly the soundtrack.

James Coburn portrays the Sheriff Pat Garrett who in this film is portrayed as a former outlaw of sorts himself who was friends with Billy the Kid before becoming a sheriff. In that the film treats him as a man troubled with his conscious over becoming a law man as many look at him as a sell out. Coburn is really the perfect actor for this role for many reasons. One being of course that Coburn just fits in a western. He has just the perfect gruff commanding presence that wears the clothes of the period without any sort of visible effort. Another being is his style of performance which in his best roles is a very low key manner that is great in a way to show his emotions within a character who tries to avoid showing anything.

Coburn of course does something here which what only a select group actors can be which is being a badass without even trying. Coburn has such a natural command here that works particularly well for the formidable Garrett. He makes Pat Garrett a self assured man of the west who knows how to stay alive by killing those he comes across on his path to finding Billy The Kid. One scene in particular shows Coburn's skills is one he alone keeps four potentially dangerous men in check. Coburn is excellent in the moment as he has such a cool calm control of the scene without a doubt. He makes Garrett the imposing figure he should be as well as the fact that the Kid will be caught a inevitability in the end.

Coburn has a certain style that really works particularly well for the character of Pat Garrett here who is suppose to be Billy the Kid's friend and is on somewhat casual terms with most of the people he encounters even the ones he ends up shooting. The Coburn style that does this is his somewhat humorous element he is able to bring in this role, despite not really being a humorous role in any way. Coburn though in his very particular grin though is able to bring this certain history of Garrett without all these people he is hunting down. By being almost friendly with them he honestly creates the history of this Garrett which was once as the ally of those he is now hunting.

What Coburn also does so well though is showing the guilt Garrett feels over his sort of betrayal of his old friends. Coburn is excellent at this because he portrays it so well without ever being obvious about it in a single scene. It would be wrong for a character like Pat Garrett to show a lot of overt emotions of regret particularly when his aim is to seem like a formidable foe. Coburn is perfect at doing this because he leaves it as an underlying element within him usually expressed with the utmost subtly by James Coburn in his expression. He does this particularly well in the last scene when he kills the Kid and Coburn powerfully expresses Garrett's regret and shame despite saying nothing in the moment.

This is a very good performance by James Coburn as he portrays Pat Garrett in a very effective fashion. Coburn uses his distinct screen presence perfectly here to emphasize his role. James Coburn as well though succeeds in giving a compelling portrayal of Garrett's underlying emotions throughout the film. He does an excellent job of mixing in the weightier elements of his performance along with just being the badass that Pat Garrett should be as well. There is no disconnect between the two aspects of his characterization and he effectively melds together these facets of Garrett into one single portrayal.

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