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Comes a Horseman

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Set against the idyllic yet harsh backdrop of the American Midwest and the cattle ranching industry of the late 1940s, Comes a Horseman is a compelling and intense drama starring James Caan, Jane Fonda, and Jason Robards. This 1978 film, directed by Alan J. Pakula, encapsulates the essence of struggle, resilience, and the stirring clashes between ambition, honor, and unadulterated greed.

The movie, described as a "modern Western," predominantly revolves around a pair of cattle ranchers, Ella Connors (played by Jane Fonda) and Frank 'Buck' Athearn (James Caan). Ella Connors, a toughened yet empathetic character, owns a small ranch that has seen better days. Her resilience and sheer grit clash against the brutal financial economic realities of the post-World War II period.

Frank Athearn, serving as a returning soldier from WWII, portrayed intricately by James Caan, enters Ella's life as an aspiring rancher, equipped with hopes and dreams of managing cattle land. Together, they form an unlikely alliance to save their livelihoods amidst the burgeoning corporate greed in the cattle industry knowing full well that they are standing against a behemoth of obstacles.

Jason Robards plays an ambitious and ruthless cattle baron, Jacob J.W. Ewing. He stands as the quintessential embodiment of untrammeled greed and epitomizes the idea of big business devouring the smaller fish in the pond. His expansionist ideology and merciless control over the industry pose an immediate threat to the survival and tradition of small farmers like Ella and Frank.

With striking cinematography by Gordon Willis, this film is visually stunning, presenting the vast landscapes of the American Midwest in ways that are both romantic and brutally real. The breathtaking views of wide-open plains, rolling prairie lands, and picturesque mountainous backdrops provide a serene yet harsh setting against the trials and tribulations of the protagonists’ lives.

Accompanied by an evocative soundtrack by Michael Small, the film beautifully captures the everyday nuances, interactions, and struggles of ordinary people trying to make a living and sustain their traditions in a rapidly changing world. The riveting interpretation of rural American life and the battle to uphold values against sweeping commercialization lend a timeless appeal to the film.

With dynamic character development, the film allows the audience to witness the transformation of Ella and Frank from solitary individuals to a united front and their respective journeys to reclaim their destinies. Fonda's captivating portrayal of Ella's determination and vulnerability strengthens the emotional tenor of the movie while Caan's depiction of Athearn's optimism and untiring spirit adds layers of depth to the narrative.

Jason Robards, in his haunting portrayal of Ewing, reminds audiences of the cold realities of greed and its damaging impact on individuals and communities. His performance adds an ominous undertone to the movie, highlighting how wealth and power can potentially erode humanity and empathy.

The film efficiently uses symbolism, in the form of an impending storm, drifting tumbleweeds, or the grazing of cattle herds, to engage the audience in a deeper understanding of the character's trials or triumphs. These underlying metaphors also highlight Pakula's profound storytelling abilities and his capacity to weave meaningful narratives from seemingly everyday scenarios.

Captivating yet stark, Comes a Horseman is a testament to the struggles of the ordinary man and woman against the backdrop of a changing world. It’s a gripping portrayal that does not shy away from the harsh realities of the time, making it a cinematic product of endurance and human resolve.

In essence, Comes a Horseman is much more than just a drama set within the farming and ranching community of the Midwest. Delving deep into the human psyche, the film unravels the complexities of survival, companionship, ambition, and idea of home in an evocative and captivating manner, making it a must-watch for fans of classic American cinema.

Comes a Horseman is a Western, Drama, Romance movie released in 1978. It has a runtime of 118 minutes. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.3. It also holds a MetaScore of 41.

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Where can I stream Comes a Horseman movie online? Comes a Horseman is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, MGM+, FuboTV, The Roku Channel Free, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Kanopy, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD, EPIX NOW. Some platforms allow you to rent Comes a Horseman for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Alan J. Pakula
Jane Fonda, James Caan, Jason Robards, Richard Farnsworth
Also starring Kenny Doughty
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