This was a pretty good movie, and I quite enjoyed it. Mature ex-gunfighter-now-cattle rancher, Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor), trying to keep his younger trigger-happy brother, Tony Sinclair (John Cassavetes), out of trouble. Tony claims he's learning gun play just to protect his older brother. I wish they'd done a little more with that, as it really does turn out to be one of his strongest motives, but it needs a little more to support it properly throughout. It gets overshadowed a bit by lust for power through violence. We've seen families split apart like this before, particularly in Westerns, so I was rather pleased with the more unusual ending, which twisted back to the "protecting my brother" angle.
The actors and the dialogue are the strongest part of this movie. I'm not a Robert Taylor fan, but he did really seem to settle into these kind of roles as he got older, in a very comfortable believable way. I liked his Steve Sinclair. Cassavetes works for me as the younger brother. One of the reasons I wanted to see this movie was to see him out of his expected element. I think he was just great in a Western. He brings his full energy and brooding and brings Tony Sinclair alive. Cassavetes always was good at letting you see what was going on inside the character, and that works well here to keep Tony human and someone we want to see redeemed. You see his fear, you see his determination to make it "his way," even when he doesn't realize his way is wrong. He always has the potential to see the light and turn his fate around, and that keeps you hoping he will.
The rest of the supporting cast is great, with Royal Dano a standout. He plays a homesteader reclaiming a stretch of land that had belonged to his father. His arrival and determination to stay on his own land no matter what spurs the morality of the other characters to choose sides in the battle.
I particularly love the film's first five minutes. Through the opening credits, we see Charles McGraw riding along. He could be the hero, until the credits end and the music takes an abrupt ominous turn (nice score by Elmer Bernstein!) as he arrives in town, and we realize, nope, this guy ain't the hero. He's someone you don't mess with, and he's here up to no good. The first scene where he walks into the closed bar, demands breakfast and whiskey, played against Jay Adler and Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones from Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles") is simply marvelous. The give and take, the pointed words... this is probably my favorite scene in the movie. Jay Adler's line "You finished with my breakfast?" is priceless.
I really do dig the dialogue in this movie. It's a Rod Sterling script (another reason I wanted to see this movie), and I think he does really well with it. He leaves a lot unsaid, uses silence well, and that's something I always appreciate in a script.
"Sing for me, and I'll smile for you." -- Tony Sinclair
"I wanted one thing in my life, that was to see you rise up. You only got up as high as your gun belt. That's a low height for a man." -- Steve Sinclair
The Colorado scenery is also amazing. You know me, I need beautiful outdoor landscapes in my movies, and this one provides those and then some. Absolutely gorgeous country in this movie.
Does it get any prettier than a valley of blooming lupines in front of green mountains topped with snow and a brilliant blue sky?