Though not as timeless as the 1946 film starring Gary Cooper, this elegiac remake marks a solid directing debut for actor Bill Pullman, who also tackles the title role. Pullman makes the production's rugged vistas seem an integral part of the frontier morality play, rather than mere window dressing. In 1885, Medicine Bow, Wyoming is poised to enter a new era of civilization. But West still has some wildness in it, and ranchers fight regularly over cattle and watering holes. Scrappy baron Sam Balaam (Dennis Weaver) feels hemmed in by newcomers and isn't averse to consolidating his domain through rustling. Rival rancher Judge Henry (Harris Yulin), who's been looking the other way, hires a new foreman the nameless Virginian, (Bill Pullman) to keep an eye on Balaam. Unfortunately, the Virginian's promotion estranges him from his saddle pal, Steve (John Savage), who joins the opposition represented by Balaam's foreman, Trampas (Colm Feore). Having supported the North during the Civil War, Trampas regards the Virginian as his natural enemy. Meanwhile, the Virginian becomes engaged to schoolmarm Molly (Diane Lane), who opposes six-gun justice on principle. The Virginian must confront a moral dilemma when Steve is arrested for cattle thieving and may be forced to put duty before love when Molly continues to pressure him about his use of violence to enforce the law. Unlike more action-oriented Westerns, this saga concerns itself primarily with crises of conscience and this version may be the most contemplative of any version of Owen Wister's famous novel. With its attention to period detail and thoughtful performances, this leisurely melodrama transports viewers to another time and compensates for its too-numerous debates about violence with its pervasive air of quiet dignity.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Though not as timeless as the 1946 film starring Gary Cooper, this elegiac remake marks a solid directing debut for actor Bill Pullman, who also tackles the title role. Pullman makes the production's rugged vistas seem an integral part of the frontier mora… (more)