Wednesday, April 8, 2015

AFI Top 100, #96: "The Searchers" (1956)

Movie Stats:
Released 1956 (USA)
American, in English (some semi-translated Navajo & Spanish)
Director - John Ford
Stars - John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter

Plot Summary:
After most of his extended family is killed by a Comanche war party, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) sets off with his brother’s adopted son Martin Pawley (Hunter) to retrieve his two nieces, who were kidnapped in the raid.

Violence; references to rape.

Bad Stuff:
Well, it’s not going to win any awards for its sensitive and inoffensive portrayal of Native Americans any time soon (and let’s not forget that most of the “Native Americans” were played by white people).

Was I supposed to like Ethan? He’s not even remotely likable. Pardon my language, but he’s a total asshole. Why is he so mean to everyone? It’s never explained. I really wanted Martin to smother him with a pillow one night at the campfire.

I don’t know where this was filmed, but it definitely wasn’t Texas.

Good Stuff:
I liked how determined, loyal, and sweet the character of Martin was. He was sort of a lovable goof. Kind of a crybaby though.

It had some funny moments, although a lot of them weren’t necessarily intentional.

I was moved by the idea that these men would spend years looking for their lost loved ones.

The Verdict:
I just don’t get it. People seem to love John Wayne movies, but I don’t find them especially compelling, and I usually can’t stand the characters he plays. This film has a fantastic rating on IMDB. One reviewer says that anyone who doesn’t like it is a “meat head” who can only understand mindless action sequences. He/she claims that the movie is about race. Well, I’m not super big on action movies, I don’t think anyone who knows me would classify me as a “meat head,” and I’ve seen FAR better movies about race (I think the idea that Ford intended this film to be a serious discussion about race is thoroughly laughable). The story is all right, the action is okay, and the acting is completely overblown. To me it’s both mediocre and forgettable. 

I give it 2.75 stars.


Patricia said...

Interesting. This is one of those movies that I haven't seen. I've heard a lot about it though.

Maybe a product of its time?

One of my favorite things about listening to music by looking up YouTube videos is that nearly always when I look up a song that was from before the 1980s, if I read the comments I can find someone saying "This is real music! Not like that stupid rap music that kids today like!" It cracks me up.

So perhaps your meathead guy is engaging in that same behavior.

balyien said...

I'm very perplexed whenever people get so caught up with other people liking what they like. It's as though they think someone disliking what they like invalidates their choice.

A lot of the comments seemed to indicate that the movie makes more sense if you read the book, i.e. John Wayne's character (whose name ISN'T Ethan in the book) is more relatable with back story. If that's the case, then to me that's the failing of the screenwriter and/or director. Your movie should make sense outside of the source material.