Volume 94, Issue 60

Wednesday, January 10, 2001


Traffic gets green light

Film adaptation a success

Temptation Island may signal end of the world

Buried Treasure

UK's Hefner loves the city

Film adaptation a success

Photo by Van Redin
DON'T HATE ME BECAUSE I'M BEAUTIFUL, PITY ME BECAUSE MY HEAD IS ON SIDEWAYS. Penelope Cruz reveals why being pretty is so damned hard in a scene from All The Pretty Horses.

All The Pretty Horses
Starring: Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black
Directed By: Billy Bob Thornton

By Aaron St. John
Gazette Staff

Adapting a novel for the big screen is never an easy proposition.

The process involves taking an independent, fully realized artistic creation and creating another that approximates the experience of the first. That's quite a challenge to begin with, but the challenge is made all the more difficult when the novel in question is one as respected and admired as Cormac McCarthy's classic 1992 work, All The Pretty Horses.

For a director to take on a project like this is indicative of some serious gusto. Luckily, it seems that Billy Bob Thornton is talented enough to back up that ambition. Though not without its flaws, All The Pretty Horses is a wonderful picture.

Set in the late 1940s, the film tells the story of a young man named John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) who, along with his friend Lacey (Henry Thomas), head to Mexico to experience the cowboy life. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious teenaged boy named Jimmy (Lucas Black), who is less than forthcoming about his past. The trio gets into some trouble, but John and Lacey manage to escape and find work on a large ranch. Trouble finds them again though, when John begins dating and falls in love with Alejandra (Penelope Cruz), the daughter of the powerful range owner who disapproves of the relationship.

On a visual level, All The Pretty Horses is simply stunning. Second-time director Thornton has filled the film with gorgeous images, particularly the beautiful vistas of the Texas plains and Mexican mountains. Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would be for China, this movie could be a terrific travel brochure for Mexico.

In terms of the film's performances, Damon is excellent and perfectly cast in his role, while Thomas, who has been seen little since his turn as Elliot in ET, shows himself to be an actor worthy of some larger roles. However, 14-year-old Lucas Black steals the show. After making his feature film debut in Thornton's first directorial effort, Sling Blade, Black has taken a variety of roles. But, it is here where he displays the full range of his abilities for the first time. If there is any justice in Hollywood, we will be seeing more of him.

Despite the strong performances, the movie has its flaws. Most of them, such as Damon and Thomas being far too old for their roles, will only bother those who are intimately familiar with McCarthy's novel. One problem that is jarring however, is the pacing of the latter half of the film. After the leisurely pace of the first hour, the rest of the movie feels rushed.

Indeed, the second part of the film crams far too much action into it – it seems like Thornton ran out of time and just tried to get it all in.

That disruption aside, All The Pretty Horses is an excellent movie that does an admirable job of capturing the essence of its inspiration. Filled as it is with strong performances, incredible cinematography and a great story, Thornton has managed to create one of the few successful translations of the printed word onto the big screen.

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