Thursday, August 22, 2013
Broken Arrow. B
Delmer Daves made interesting Westerns for sure, and while none that I've seen are entirely satisfying, their ambition offers more than enough compensation. Broken Arrow (not to be confused with the 1996 John Woo film, which is one of my favorite '90s action movies) is a great example, a radical Western that is bold enough to take a pro-Indian stance in a time when they were either marginalized or completely villainized. James Stewart, in what's really a tremendous performance, plays Tom Jeffords, a man who saves the life of an apache boy and proceeds to work on a peace agreement between his tribe and the local whites. What's interesting about Jeffords is that he's in no way a Western archetype, but merely a normal man who's thrown into a big situation because of a simple moral position. The realism of his character makes the film's pro-Indian agenda more believable, but unfortunately there are too many other elements that are distract from the film's lofty ambitions. For one, the Apaches all speak nearly perfect English, and for another, Jeffords falls for and marries an Indian girl who looks half his age. The love story is never believable, which keeps the highly dramatic finish from packing much of an emotional punch. Still, this is different than most Westerns you'll find during the genre's heyday, an admirable and thoughtful film.