Ride in the Whirlwind
There is a fatalism on-display here that I really find oddly comforting. I’ve long known this about myself, but I’m not sure I really understand why that is. There’s something about the inevitability of disaster that just makes sense to me. It’s almost certainly an indication of something troubling in my psychological makeup.
Similarly to my thoughts on The Shooting, this is the kind of Western I would make. Somewhat light on plot, very light on character development, mostly just a focus on a brief moment in time. It’s a brief setup and then a longer examination of the consequences of that setup. It’s almost perfect.
The film follows three cowhands of uncertain origin, who accidentally end up sheltering with a bunch of bandits who have recently pulled a job. A vigilante posse arrives before the travelers have moved on, and they assume our guys are part of the bandit group. From then on, the film follows the logical conclusion of being tracked for a crime they absolutely didn’t participate in.
There’s a moment, where the cowhands end up taking refuge with a frontier farming family. The family absolutely assumes they are bandits. Why wouldn’t they? The cowhands know they aren’t, but at the same time they are there to steal the family’s horses, which will be a crippling economic blow. The assert their overall innocence, but honestly they don’t push it. They know their presence in the lives of these people isn’t a positive one.
There’s something about that resignation that I find fascinating. The same film in the hands of lesser creators would likely have strained against the lack of information. It would have done more to try to establish them as “good guys", or at least it would have dwelled more on the subject. This film knows that it’s an inherent tension, and just revels in it. It’s uncomfortable and amazing.