Director: Antonia Bird
Year: 1999
TRT: 1:40

This is a good film, surprisingly so, actually. In the trappings of a period piece, this plays out very well in a pretty suspenseful drama, with a bit of mysticism that's built on in a subtle way. The progression may be a bit slow for hard-core action fans, but coming in at 100 minutes, it relays a lot of story in a pretty short time. Definitely worth the price of rental, for sure.

Despite commendations for his actions in the Mexican/American War in 1847, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pierce) is delegated to a remote post in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the California territory because they know as well as he does, he's a coward. His actions in the war tested his virtue and despite his final rise to bravery, failed not only his fellow soldiers but himself. So off to a remote outpost he goes (which is basically an assignment for the invisibles), and resigns himself to an isolated duty with absolutely no resemblance to the lifestyle he once led. But then a disheveled traveler shows up at their barracks, telling them of his party's ill-fortune and ultimate demise, leading a small investigating band of soldiers out to the wilderness where it happened.

Sure there's a bit of blood (it is about cannibalism, after all), but the authentic feel and expertly played roles make this a pretty worthwhile film. Pierce (Memento) and Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) are excellent as the main leads, and minor characters having enough setup to dignify there roles as well, including Jeffrey Jones, Neal McDonough, and even David Arquette, playing the role he was born to play as the slightly mentally stunted peon soldier who likes the reefer (but not in a corn-ball kind of way). This film is beautifully shot, I must say, with very well-done sets. There's some editing faux-pas at the end that could've been treated in a different manner, but otherwise this is a pretty good drama that didn't get the attention that it deserved upon theatrical release and after.

Great Scene: There's plenty of nice sequences throughout, but the initial set-up is nicely played, complete with quick flashback scenes to introduce the inner turmoil of the main character. Some great use of interesting music as well.

DVD Notes: Pretty decent release by 20th Century Fox from their "independent" division (ie they saw something independent of quality so they bought it). Not that this comes off as an "independent" film, as all the actors and photography is really top-notch. Plenty of extras are included, with 3 separate commentaries (Director Antonia Bird & Composer Damon Albarn, Actor Robert Carlyle, and Writer Ted Griffin and Actor Jeffrey Jones), a collection of movie stills that actually includes shots of some of the footage completely cut from the film, a nice compilation of costume design sketches with some insight on character development, excellent set design sketches, and some deleted scenes with or without director commentary. Funny little easter egg as well with a quick outlining of the path of the Donner party. I must give credit to Antonia Bird, apparently she came onto the project on pretty short notice, and did a great job with it.