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Film Review: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018) ★★★★


The wild and old west has always been a fascinating world for the cinematic universe to continue exploring. Whether it’s a movie from the Golden era of Hollywood or one newly made, such as HBO’s “Westworld”, it never stops aiming the human story, its cruelty, desperation and the hunger for wealth. But one fact always remain unchanged – only the strongest survives. Ethan and Joel Coen are very impressive visually rich directors whose brilliant ideas have no limits.Everything they offer has an exquisite taste which, luckily for us, they don’t mind sharing. And if you combine the Coens and ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’,imagine the result you may get!

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is an anthology comprising of six segments, the title name, Near Aldogones, Meal Ticket, All Gold Canyon, The Gal who Got Rattled, and The Mortal Remains. All of them are about multiple characters, the lessons they must learn and why certain circumstances or opponents cannot be underestimated. Also, at the end of the day the one who has a bullet has more to say, it’s just that the one who receives it never gets a second chance to fix the errors made.

The opening scene of the Coen Brothers’ feature is stunning. The title segment and other parts of the film is presented in the form of a short story collection called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Other Tales of the American Frontier, in which we find Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a cheerful cowboy, happily singing about being himself, as he explains to the audience, how he’s considered an outlaw and a ‘misanthrope’. Ater a beautifully shot segment of scenes in which Buster proves himself literally being one of the best shooters, we will soon realize his inevitable fate was long overdue, when he, after a duel with a young challenger, finds a bullet right in the middle of his forehead.

The second segment, presented through a hand turning the pages of a book, introduces us to Near Algodones, where we find a calm but overconfident cowboy (James Franco) who underestimates the creative bank teller (Stephen Root), who has a secret for anyone who wants to rob his bank. Of course, the cowboy will learn it the hard way, the same exact way that he won’t be able to repeat the same mistake twice. This particular segment is quite interesting in a way, when luck has been tested against the upcoming fate that is ready to take what belongs to her.

All other segments, such as Meal Ticket starring Liam Neeson and Harry Melling, All Gold Canyon and The Gal who Got Rattled with Zoe Kazan and Bill Hick particularly highlight the potential Coen Brothers have, and how cleverly they have executed them, so you won’t get a chance to check the time. But through all those segments, it’s the human condition that has been explored and how they dealt with the troubles of any level which awaited them ahead on the road.

Each part of the story has its lesson to offer. We do, indeed, take things for granted. We often, but falsely though, think that missed opportunities may come again. But that was not the case for the wild old west that has its own rules in which it operates. And as for the cinematography and the location, there couldn’t have been better places to choose or the right colors to paint an outstanding image presented by the Coen Brothers.

In the end, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is the most unique feature of the year. Having such a clear narrative and highly skillful execution will make you happy that someone still makes Westerns. It’s true, if you heard already, that the first thirty five minutes are exceptionally entertaining and fast paced, but as you know, the intention here was not to show us constant bloody killings, but to explore much more than the human execution through human hands. There is always love in place, a certain level of hunt for wealth, or just to survive. This film, particularly, is about how people survive or navigate through one day from another. For one, it’s faster and full of actions, for some it’s another uneventful day, which is what makes “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” so real and astounding.

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