This modern day Western doesn’t dwell in cliche cowboy shootouts or bounty themes. Instead, it gives us the portrait of an empowered female lead and a male antihero working together and unlocking larger themes of survival and the human condition.
Mary B. Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is a woman of fortitude and tenacity, living on her own on the frontier of Nebraska. She bravely takes charge to deliver three mentally insane women to the East to receive help, after they’ve been driven mad by the demanding conditions and deprivations of life out in the Western territory.
Cuddy comes across George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) as he is being hanged and fighting for his last breaths. She agrees to set him free for his word that he will accompany her on this journey. From there, the two embark on this dangerous journey with the three women and constantly find themselves at odds with each other, among other difficult elements that come their way.
Visually, the film speaks to some of the traditional westerns we’ve all seen, with beautiful landscape shots and warm colors, and engulfs you into the territory through its memorable and string heavy score (by Marco Beltrami). Admittedly, the film drags on towards the end after an unexpected turn in the middle, but you’ll nonetheless be taken through a wave of emotions with plenty of anxiety, subtle humor and tragedy throughout. Towards the end, there are cameo appearances by Meryl Streep and Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”)—though these prove more distracting of the climax than supportive. Despite the film’s heavy themes, viewers won’t be on overload in the theater. Instead, they’ll take the journey East with Cuddy and Briggs, navigating the unexpected twists and turns throughout.