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In this Western, Paul Newman plays John Russell, a man raised by Native Americans. On a stagecoach journey, his fellow passengers shun him because of his life with the Native Americans, but when the stagecoach is robbed by a group of outlaws, the passengers realise that their only chance of survival lies with John…

I’m not really a fan of Westerns, and probably wouldn’t have watched this one, if it wasn’t for the fact that Paul Newman is in it, and also that it is considered one of his great films. Anyway, I’m glad I watched it (and would like the chance to watch it again in the future).

Newman plays the moody, broody and reticent John Russell perfectly; I think he was made for this kind of part. Not only is he alienated by other people, but he also seems to want to alienate himself from them. He is not necessarily a nasty man, but he is certainly not your typical hero, and the question remains over whether he will risk his own neck to help others save theirs.

The supporting cast are all excellent too, particularly Richard Boone, who plays the ringleader of the outlaws, and Frederic March, who plays one of the stagecoach passengers.

The film is beautifully photographed, showing off the beautiful but unforgiving land where the passengers find themselves at the mercy of the elements, as well as the band of criminals who are determined to stop at nothing to get their hands on the money which they know is in the coach.

As someone who would never list Westerns as a favourite genre, this film was a pleasant surprise, and one I would definitely recommend.

Year of release: 1967

Director: Martin Ritt

Producers: Irving Ravetch, Martin Ritt

Writers: Elmore Leonard (novel), Harriet Frank Jr., Irving Ravetch, Diane Cilento, Barbard Rush, Martin Balsam

Main cast: Paul Newman, Frederic March, Richard Boone,

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In a post-apocalyptic America, a man and his young son try to make the journey south, where they hope to find a life where they can do more than just survive. At the moment, they are just about managing to stay alive in a barren world where houses and stores have been plundered and ruined, and every stranger they encounter is a very real threat.

This is an amazing book.  The relationship between the man and the boy – who remain unnamed throughout the novel – is totally believeable.  They are both all that the other has, and the man will do anything to protect his son, while the son puts all his faith and trust into his father.  The pair show the lengths that people will go to to survive, while still trying to hold onto their humanity; they also show the reserves of strength and thought that people find in such situations, where they are having to consider their every action and deed.

The bare landscape is also portrayed magnificently, and is frighteningly imaginable. The language is very clean, with no unnecessary words; the barren-ness of the prose reflects the barren-ness of the country.

The characters are also beautifully portrayed, with the close relationship between them really coming through.  I was completely immersed in the bleak world in which they found themselves, and felt their hopes and dreams, disappointments and despair.

I was drawn into this book from the very first pages, and didn’t want to put it down.  I was anxious to get to the end to find out what would be the fate of these two characters, but when I finished it, I wished that there was still more to read.

A very thought provoking novel that will stay with me for a long time – highly recommended.

(For further information about the author, please click here.)

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