Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#20 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Sorry for the delay in getting the next movie on the list up again. I’ve been getting rather lazy lately, and I’m hoping to fix that now. Ideally I’m going to build up a nice reserve of movies reviewed so that making deadlines will not be so hectic to me (usually these reviews are being written literally 10 minutes before they are posted. Anyway, our movie for today is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a western action- comedy starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Unfortunately, I’m writing this review a month and a half after having seen the film, but it’s still pretty firm in my mind. I’m just going to go ahead and say now that I really, really liked this film. The great chemistry between Redford and Newman, the excellent dialogue, and the interesting take on the “buddy cop” film genre (Which hadn’t actually started yet) that this movie plays at really are what make this movie one of the best I’ve seen off this list (I know, I say that a lot).

This movie takes place in the late 1890s during the Spanish-American War in, what is presumably the American Southwest. The Hole in the Wall gang, led by Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) are making a name for themselves as robbers of repute. The story starts with a sort of “silent film” which sets the story of the film, setting up the “legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. The film then takes us straight to the action, with the two sitting in a saloon when they are approached by a man who challenges them to a duel, resulting in the Sundance Kid showing off his skills with a pistol. What I found interesting about this scene was that the whole thing was filmed in black and white, obviously trying to play itself into the classic “old west” films. The film then switches into color, and from there the movie starts to actually develop the story, with the two banditos robbing trains, then being chased across the southwest, then fleeing to the East, then fleeing to Bolivia, and trying to make ends me there. All the while the two of them are making snarky remarks at one another and vying for the hand of the romantic interest of the film – Etta Place, played by Katharine Ross.

One thing I really like about this film is the way in which the movie makes everything feel really surreal. You the viewer never truly feels that the two of them are in danger of being killed, even though that risk is great throughout most of the movie. The other thing I love about this movie is just how quotable it is. This movie has so many great lines, and the majority of my notes consist of writing down lines from the film.

As I’m implying above, I thoroughly loved the performances given by Newman, Redford, and Ross. Newman (The Brains of the Operation) and Redford (The skilled marksman) had such great chemistry together, and their timing and delivery of lines was absolutely stupendous. Everything about them in this film just flat out worked. I thought the direction of this film was also quite good. I liked the way the director George Roy Hill plays with different film methods, with the grainy silent film in the beginning, the shift to black and white, and then to color, and even more I liked the play with the montage about the trio’s experiences in New York, told through old-timey photographs. I also like Hill’s decision to not translate the Spanish used in the film when the trio travels to Bolivia, for those who don’t speak Spanish, it puts the viewer in the same position as the trio, facing a severe language barrier, and gives a nice bilingual bonus to those who do speak the language.

The Cinematography in this film is also stupendous, particularly the epic long shots in the film which really gives you a sense of the scale and epicness of the terrain that we’re talking about. The most striking scene to me is the last scene of the film, when Butch and the Sundance Kid run into what is essentially a firing squad when the military corners them in a small village in Bolivia. The shot is taken from the perspective of the army, taken far back, and you can see the two run out of the house they are taken cover in as the screen turns yellow, establishing two robbers as legendary figures, meanwhile in the background you can hear shots fired in unison multiple times.

The music in this film was also quite good. The mixture of western-ey sounds, with abrupt, almost random stops and shifts to different genres initially feels very scattered, but actually works very well with the film as a whole. Not to mention this film has that famous song “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” which is a very well known (and awesome) song .

This truly is an awesome film, and I imagine it is on the list for a number of reasons. The first I’d say, is for the film’s ability to blend comedy and action into a film that is truly entertaining from start to finish. The second is probably because of its great influence not just on film, but on pop culture (many of the lines in this film are still repeated, and who hasn’t sung Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head before?). This film is almost certainly on the list because of the incredible chemistry between Redford and Newman, two of the monolithic action/drama stars of that era, and the two of them together, working so well together, is probably one of the best male-male actor pairings of all time. Finally, I’d say that this film is on the list because, arguably, this is the first buddy cop film ever. Even though the movie is about banditos, the film really does lay down a lot of the tropes and characteristics that make up a buddy cop film, making it exceedingly influential as an important film. This truly great film really is a must see for everyone.

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