This kind of pioneering storytelling defined the genre for years to come
Rightly hailed as a masterpiece the Academy Award winning Shane is director George Stevens telling of the ‘mysterious stranger’ riding into town and leaving justice, and bodies, in his wake. Just as Shane rode into history, so did the western in general, and its pioneering storytelling defined the genre for years to come with the likes of Leone and Eastwood taking it to its zenith.
Although based on a book of the same name, director George Stevens has a just claim on the mysterious stranger entering a town to dispense justice. Although our character has a name, Shane, in every other aspect he is without one; no past to speak of, mysterious, enigmatic, good with a gun and effortlessly cool with it. He stands with the down trodden, the lowly and the meek; a champion for the underdog and willing to take a beating (or worse) for it, and then, just as mysteriously he leaves, leaving death and justice in his wake.
For that is exactly the tale of Shane, riding into a battle between homesteaders (farmers with fences) and a cattle baron (who needs the open ranges) warring over the land, but it is also so much more; Stevens provides poignant dialogue about guns, the land, nature of man, law, order, position and more. His characters are more than single dimensions; multi-faceted with motivations and ethics – there is no bad guy just a difference of opinion and the lead up to the final shoot out is peppered with alternatives to destiny. Little wonder the film has maintained is standing as one of the greatest westerns ever made, I’d also wager it is one of the best films, full stop.
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