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Literature & Language
Movie Review
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The Western in Literature and Film (Movie Review Sample)


Analysis of how the movie "All the Pretty Horses" portrays the romantic idealization of the Old West, and how this idealization is not realistic

The Western in Literature and Film
The Quest for the Old Western Lifestyle in “All the Pretty Horses” by Billy Bob Thornton
“All the Pretty Horses” by Billy Bob Thornton tells the story of two young men, John Grady Cole and Rawlins Duane, who crosses the border from Texas into Mexico in search of adventure and romance. Their journey is a frustrating one since they end up getting imprisoned in Mexico. After their painful experience, they return to Texas disillusioned about their idealized Old West, an ending that illustrates the film’s thematic concerns. In the 1992 novel All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, and from which the film is adapted, the ending in which Cole rides into the West suggests his continued search for what used to be the Old West. In this regard, the film and the novel suggest that the idealized romanticism of the Old West is not realizable because the reality in which the characters live is different from the Old West of cowboys, blue skies, vast lands and horses.
The film “All the Pretty Horses” by Billy Bob Thornton explores the romantic conception of the America’s Old West. It tells the story of two young men who leaves their home in Texas to cross the border into Texas in search of what they cannot find in a civilized Old West. The civilization of the Old West through the discovery of oil symbolizes the end of what used to be- horses, cowboys, and the vast, limitless frontier. Cole and Duane’s decision to begin a journey into Mexico, which is on the west of the Old West, suggests the desire to live the old cowboy way of life that civilization has destroyed. The journey into Mexico is symbolic because it represents going into a place that has not been corrupted by civilization. The film’s setting, in 1949, conveys images of the cowboy era, when one gets on a horse, with camp gear and a gun, and heads into the middle of nowhere for adventure. The civilization of the Old West means that individuals wishing to live the dream of the cowboy life must go to where civilization has not reached, hence the journey into Mexico. The sale of the ranch once owned by Cole’s grandfather symbolizes the passing away of the Old West as a result of civilization.
“All the Pretty Horse” is also about the upholding of the cowboy code of honor at whatever cost. The western lifestyle is characterized by the cowboy culture, and Thornton portrays this idea through Cole’s adherence to the principles of honor and nobility. For instance, he falls on love with a girl he meets in Mexico, and is determined to live this love despite the opposition he receives from the girl’s father and aunt. As the film and novel’s hero, Cole shows that the western mindset about the Old west is not something that can b...
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