Don't get me wrong, I get it: death of the western and all that. But my reaction is similar to the reaction I had to Drive, only more pronounced, because I genuinely thought it was going to end differently (black and white, code-era--the chances were pretty good, you must admit). Silly idealist me thought (or perhaps tried to convince myself) the whole time that the truck was going to be how he made his final escape, but of course...Of course.
Funny thing is that the film made its point long before the ending. The juxtaposition of the modern day setting with classic western tropes makes the western seem silly and outmoded. So the ending pissed me off because I felt it was completely unnecessary. Okay, Mister Director, I know you want to be all clever and show how you're so above making a genre film. Show everyone how cool you are because you can turn a genre stereotype on its head, right? You know, Mister Director, genre films are the only reason you can make your high concept, below-the-belt crapola. Genre films are the foundation of filmmaking, as well as its bread and butter. So here's an idea--rather than knock the western on its ass, why not give it a proper sendoff? Why not let Douglas and his horse get away and ride off into the sunset, and we'll all wave and say It Was Nice Having You Around While You Were Here and Good Luck To You In The Future (let's say, sometime in the late eighties or early nineties)? And we'll all think to ourselves, Well, Yes, It Was Time, but What a Time It Was, eh?
But, no, no, Mister Director (whose name, by the way, I can't even be bothered to look up), you've got to be edgy and blow the whole thing up in the last 5 minutes after emotionally manipulating us for the first hour and forty. You been watching a lot of Godard lately, or what? Prick.
Hey, Mister Director, ever hear of a film called High Noon? It did what you were trying to do much more cleverly ten years earlier. Maybe you should have watched it a few more times first.
Here's the second reason the ending pissed me off. Aside from the obvious metaphor--oh, and in case we didn't get it, let's rest the lens on the wet crushed cowboy hat in the middle of the road at the very end. We already killed the horse we've been rooting for all this time; might as well beat it, too. Aside from the obvious metaphor, films like this present a bleak view of life that I absolutely do not subscribe to. A view that I actually despise. That after all of our hard work, the carpet's going to be yanked out from under us. It's not only that I'm an idealist, it's that I have to fight that notion frequently in my own life. I tell myself all the time, You can make it and save the horse, too. I tell myself, Just over that ridge is all the answers. And if they're not over that ridge, then it's the next, and the next. And until the day I die, all the answers are going to be just over the next ridge. But doesn't life challenge that notion!! Wouldn't it just be easier to push the stone up the hill, knowing full well it's going to roll right back down again, than to try to believe that I'm making real progress. Well, screw that, and screw the ending to this movie.
I'm not going to say it's a bad film; certainly it made an emotional impact on me. But I don't appreciate being led to believe that there's going to be a happy ending only to have the whole thing turn 180 degrees at the end. And that's the rub with films like this, I think. If I go into a film knowing it's likely to be tragic, I'm able to prepare myself for it. It's the glasses again, you know? I like to be surprised, yes, but I also like a degree of familiarity when I watch films, whether they're happy or sad or weird. I want to be able to relate on some level. But to change direction suddenly at the end really feels like a cheap shot.
I can hear Adrienne in my head saying, Didn't you see it coming? It was so obvious! And, probably I did. I just really wanted the happy ending. The world we live in is not made for idealists. What can I do?