Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer
Director: Ron Howard
Screenwriter: Ken Kaufman, from Thomas Eidson’s novel The Last Ride
Set in the late 19th-century wilderness of the American Southwest, this gritty tale is about a frontier “healer” named Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) who struggles without a husband to raise her two daughters. When the older girl, Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood), is kidnapped by a band of renegade Apaches who run a thriving slave trade selling teenage girls to Mexican scum, Maggie aims to get help from the U.S. Cavalry. Coming to her aid is her hated father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who abandoned Maggie and her mother decades earlier so he could go off to live with Indians. When he makes his appearance in the film it’s as a shaggy drifter with long hair, moccasins and beads and looking so much like an Indian that some are ready to run him off before he so much as opens his mouth.
There’s lots of bad blood between him and his daughter but Maggie’s desperate, particularly when she learns that the U.S. Cavalry is headed the wrong way in its search for the band’s leader, a psychotic spell-casting “brujo”, or male witch named Chidin (Eric Schweig). Besides, Samuel’s craftiness and knowledge is an asset in tracking down the renegades before they reach the border and Lilly’s never to be heard from again.
Lilly’s younger sister, Dot (Jenna Boyd) goes along for the ride, giving Samuel something else to worry about. And of course it isn’t long before Dot becomes a liability, something we all knew would happen.
Lotta says: The film sets up quickly and well and Cate Blanchett is powerful as the determined mother. Tommy Lee manages to pull off his character, as you’d expect him to. But the film is too long and that’s my biggest complaint. Aaron Eckhart, as Maggie’s hired hand, Brake, disappears too soon and Val Kilmer is all but lost to a cameo appearance. Brutality is depicted realistically yet it’s shot in a tastefully distant manner to spare us the gory details.