Thursday, 29 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Robert Duvall in Open Range

Robert Duvall did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Boss Spearman in Open Range.

Open Range, despite a slow start, I found to be a pretty strong western about a cattleman and his hired hand facing off against a ruthless land baron.

Well I was originally going to review Rémy Girard in The Barbarian Invasions but since that film is so assured of its own brilliance what use is there even to review it or one of its performances? I'd rather review Robert Duvall in this film. It's actually interesting that, despite seeming a perfect fit, Duvall mostly only really appeared in westerns as villains and that was before his breakout. After his break out his only major performance in a western was in the television miniseries Lonesome Dove, that was until this film perhaps that is why Kevin Costner was supposedly so adamant in casting Duvall in the role. It was really the perfect choice as Duvall seems as natural to the western setting as the rolling hills and the vast plains. From the opening scene Duvall just is this old time cattleman. Duvall carries that striking presence from the outset as he does not need to say much of anything just to exude a man of the time, and place. Duvall though takes this given even further though as he creates a powerful figure as he looks over his men, and his cattle, a man whose power isn't defined so much by strength rather something far more important. 

Duvall in the early scenes as he works his men including the troubled former gunfighter Charley Waite (Costner), the gentle giant Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and the young Button (Diego Luna), Duvall projects himself as a father to the men. Duvall portrays the strength of Spearman very much coming from his respect he grants to his men, which they return to them, even when he is telling them to do something Duvall brings an inherent warmth in his delivery though still with an unquestioned command. Duvalll is essential as he creates the sense of the real camaraderie between the four men before tragedy befalls them when they come into contact with the town of Harmonville. An early fight eventually devolves into all four men being attacked by the men hired by a local land baron Baxter (Michael Gambon) which leaves Mose dead and Button in critical condition. Duvall excels in these scenes as usual as he is able to convey Spearman's distress so effectively without ever becoming overly emotional. In just a few moments and couple subtle reactions Duvall reveals Spearman's pain over his men's treatment but fitting to a man of his place in the old west. Duvall shows a man who has felt many losses over the years, but he knows how to deal with it though this still never leaves him ever truly detached in those quiet moments of sorrow.

The rest of the film proceeds to follow Spearman and Charley as they attempt to find justice for their friends. Duvall is great in an early confrontation between Spearman and Baxter. Again Duvall is excellent in the way he can offer such an emotional power to a moment without even raising his voice. Duvall offers though such conviction in every word in the confrontation, but pivotal to the character there is always this definite sense of righteousness due to Duvall's performance. When he demands action against those who committed the crimes he does not portray a violent anger, but rather this assured desire for justice to be done. Of course the lawman in town are corrupt and working for Baxter and have no desire to turn themselves in. This leaves Charley and Spearman to deliver their justice themselves by attempting to take on all the remaining corrupt men in town. They are given a brief respite due to a rainstorm which leaves the two time to try to prepare for the next day. In this time the two attempt to recruit others and something I love about Duvall's work is the way he sets Spearman apart from Charley, whose accustom to vendettas, by just how cordial he stays. Duvall in doing so though provides this inspiration of sorts as when he asks others to fight against Baxter, there is something so encouraging in his kindhearted in his manner as he asks everyone to merely do the right thing.

Duvall's work here is so good in just how unassuming yet effective he is in every moment. He creates such a power with such ease, and grace that feels so fitting to Boss Spearman as a character. There is a great scene where Spearman speaks about his long lost family and Duvall again plays it close to the chest yet in his slight smile with just a hint of sadness in the eyes conveys just all those memories that still truly mean so much to him. This gives a later moment all the stronger impact, which is when Spearman tells Charley to give a proper goodbye to the local doctor's sister who holds an obvious attraction to Charley. Again Duvall makes the most of so little offering such poignancy in his stern yet encouraging delivery of the moment. Another scene that is essential to Duvall is as they prepare for the showdown they drop by at the store to buy what are potential final gifts for themselves. There's something so wonderful about how honest and earnest Duvall portrays Spearman as he goes about buying and tasting the finest chocolate the shop has. It basically classic Duvall in a way. Duvall is able to portray the simplicity of the joy of the moment but with that still conveys the idea that it might be his final treat within the way he seems to hold directly onto the joy.

One of my favorite moments though actually is just before the battle where Spearman and Charley tell each other their full names. Duvall is hilarious in portraying Spearman's embarrassment and genuine fear of sorts when he reveals his real first name is Bluebonnet. Although the greater fear at his name being let out, rather than death may seem odd it only seems natural to the character due to Duvall's vivid realization of the man. In the final action scene Duvall never is lost in the scene and still makes an impact in a few very important moments. Duvall throughout the sequence does well actually to show Spearman as less comfortable Charley in the attack, but only in terms of portraying some aversion to the violence though he still conveys that conviction to his code in every moment of it. Duvall keeps Spearman as the purely good figure though in an honest way right to when he prevents Charley from killing one of the wounded men, and brings the needed passion in once again revealing Spearman's devotion to his code. Now this is a performance that you'd expect to be great since it is Robert Duvall in a western, nevertheless it is a great performance no matter what. Duvall's work is a testament to his considerable talent as lives up to every expectation one would have of the man in such a role.  

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Luke Higham

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Anonymous said...

Luke Higham

Louis: And the Barbarian Invasions.

Charles Heiston said...

I watched this recently, Duvall would probably be my #5 for the year. Glad he has another five for this amazing performance.

Charles Heiston said...

And i see Dogville remained your Original Screenplay win too.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your updated top 10 Robert Duvall performances, your updated top 10 acting moments by him.

Anonymous said...

That final shootout is amazing especially that opening headshot , although, how did Costner fire so many shots at that one guy just after Duvall takes a hit?

Calvin Law said...

Damn. This could go as high as #2.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1950's version of Open Range.

Calvin Law said...

I should note I saw Transformers 5 and it was offensively terrible. I'll post my thoughts and ratings in a bit for some laughs, but not even Anthony Hopkins comes out well of this one.

Alex Marqués said...

It's depressing to see an actor like him having to get involved in that movie for a paycheck.

omar said...

Louis: I'm glad you have Dogville your win for original screenplay; what would be your cast and director for a 70s, 90s and 10s version?
Also, what are your ratings for Sevigny, Bacall, Gazzara, Skarsgard and Clarkson?
Is there any chance for Kidman to beat Theron, and could Bettany or Caan go up?

Luke Higham said...

Omar: Theron's definitely keeping her win and highly doubt Bettany going up.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Calvin: Why torture yourself mate, that film franchise should have been euthanized a long time ago. I personally stopped watching after Revenge of the Fallen, and I have no further interest in anything its maniacal director is involved in.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I wish I could get my money back from Revenge Of The Fallen, an utter abomination, yet I'm guilty for also seeing Dark Of The Moon, which made me feel depressed. Now I don't wish for the Transformers franchise to die, but it needs a LONG fucking rest and hopefully someone talented enough could steer it towards a positive direction.

Anonymous said...

Luke: I think the people in charge of the Transformers franchise should stick to cartoons, comics and video games. The only good things about the movies are the special effects and Peter Cullen's performance as Optimus Prime.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I quite enjoyed the Cybertron games, but I see what you mean.

Anonymous said...

Luke: The game based on the 80's cartoon was also very good IMO.

RatedRStar said...

I remember being stunned when I heard Fall of Cybertron got positive reviews =D, it was a pleasant surprise.

RatedRStar said...

I just thought that the first one would just be a fluke but apparently not.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Joker interrogation scene in The Dark Knight.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Costner - 4(I will say that though this is one of Costner's best performances, I can't help but feel someone like say Viggo Mortensen, yeah he's always my alternate choice, could have taken the role even further. Costner though does take it pretty far though succeeding in providing the needed intensity that he properly attaches to an innate darkness and hate within the man. His chemistry with Duvall and Bening both work wonders though with Duvall creating that distinct contrast as well as camaraderie, and with Bening creating actually quite the affecting rather mostly unsaid romance.)

Bening - 4.5(One of my favorite performances of her's actually. Bening brings such a natural warmth and grace that provides such an effective comforting factor throughout the film. She beautifully plays the part and very much like Duvall she excels so much with the unsaid. The moments with Costner leading up the fight I actually found more poignant before they actually declare their love due to how well Bening provided such a powerful yet understated connection throughout their scenes together.)

Luna - 2.5(Luna's goes a bit broad at times. Overall I thought he was not too distracting and provided what was needed for his character.

Gambon - 2(Cuts a pretty big slab of ham here, he even overacts when getting shot just a bit too much, and throughout is one of the weakest aspects of the film.)

Girard - 3(He goes a bit too overt for much of the film giving more of a caricature of the intellectual than creating an actual person whom we can empathize with. He doesn't work though really on the other end as someone who is engaging in his insufferable nature either. He has some good moments in there though when he pulls back a bit such as when he loses his classroom or just a few other minor reactionary moments.)

Rousseau - 2.5(He's okay for the most part but doesn't really make a distinct statement with the character. I felt the father son relationship was particularly lacking as there was not a real sense of history either in a connection or through estrangement. He's never bad to be sure, but he seems mostly there to move the few plot elements around. Comparing him to say Daniel Bruhl from 03 in a somewhat similair performance he falls quite short.)

Croze - 3(Yeah not quite sure what Cannes's was doing in 03, then again I don't exactly love the other films in competition that I have seen either. Croze's performance here though is a bit of an odd one in that she basically hits the emotional notes you'd expect from her heroine addict yet there always seems something missing. Croze never quite overcomes the fact that her character almost feels arbitrary for some attempt at a substance that the film never quite earns.)

Tahmeed:

1. "Smell of Napalm" - Apocalypse Now
2. "A ladder" - Tender Mercies
3. Confession - Get Low
4. Ride of the Valkyries - Apocalypse Now
5. Remembering his daughter - Tender Mercies
6. The Boss's family - Open Range
7. The Conversion - The Apostle
8. His scene - The Road
9. "Hey Boo" - To Kill a Mockingbird
10. Bluebonnet - Open Range

1. Apocalypse Now
2. Get Low
3. Tender Mercies
4. Open Range
5. The Apostle
6. The Road
7. Falling Down
8. The Great Santini
9. Network
10. A Civil Action

Anonymous:

I guess he had Ed Harris's revolver from Westworld.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Open Range 1950's directed by Anthony Mann:

Boss: Victor McLaglen
Charley: James Stewart
Sue: Claire Trevor
Percy: Millard Mitchell
Baxter: Stanley Holloway

Omar:

Sevigny - 3.5
Bacall - 4
Gazzara - 4
Skarsgard - 4
Clarkson - 4.5(Yes Luke's she's gone up)

Bettany no, Caan maybe.

Theron's win is pretty safe for me, though Kidman's an amazing runner up.

70's directed by William Friedkin:

Grace: Lee Remick
Tom Edison Jr: Jeff Bridges
Tom Edison Sr: Lloyd Bridges
Ma Ginger: Lillian Gish
Liz: Stockard Channing
Chuck: James Whitmore
Jack: Fredric March
Vera: Carolyn Jones
Bill: Lance Henriksen
The Big Man: Robert Mitchum
Narrator: Orson Welles

90's directed by Barbet Schroeder:

Grace: Holly Hunter
Tom Edison Jr: Jared Harris
Tom Edison Sr: Richard Harris
Ma Ginger: Martha Scott
Liz: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Chuck: Stacy Keach
Jack: Jack Palance
Vera: Veronica Cartwright
Bill: James Spader
The Big Man: Gene Hackman
Narrator: Edward Woodward

10's directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu:

Grace: Jessica Chastain
Tom Edison Jr: Domnhall Gleeson
Tom Edison Sr: Brendan Gleeson
Ma Ginger: Shirley MacLaine
Liz: Aubrey Plaza
Chuck: Jackie Earle Haley
Jack: James Cromwell
Vera: Jennifer Ehle
Bill: Aaron Paul
The Big Man: Ed Harris
Narrator: Jeremy Irons

Anonymous:

It's a scene that focuses very closely on Ledger's performance therefore it's a great scene. Just seeing Ledger act is enough but it's a great scene in terms of the way it so suddenly pulls the rug out from under you as the Joker's switches from his philosophy to his intention.