Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

Life can never cage a man like this!

A fiercely independent cowboy arranges to have himself locked up in jail in order to then escape with an old friend who has been sentenced to the penitentiary.

I don't need cards to figure out who I am, I already know.
Lonely Are The Brave is directed by David Miller and adapted for the screen by Dalton Trumbo from the novel "The Brave Cowboy" written by Edward Abbey. It stars Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau & George Kennedy. Cinematography is from Phillip H. Lathrop and Jerry Goldsmith scores the music in what was his first major studio work.
John (Jack) W. Burns is an old school cowboy who refuses to adapt to the new world he finds himself in. Modern technology is alien to him and he would rather perpetually roam with his horse Whiskey than ever contemplate getting in a car or a jet. Upon learning that his dear friend Paul (Michael Kane) is in jail, it's not long before Jack himself finds he's in jail after a barroom fight…..and then promptly sets about breaking Paul and himself out. Only Paul doesn't want to go, he wont jeopardise the family life waiting for him on the outside by becoming a fugitive. Jack escapes and heads for the hills on Whiskey, with the law, and all their modern technology, in hot pursuit.
Officially Douglas' favourite film in his long and varied career, Lonely Are The Brave is a wonderfully elegiac picture about a man out of his time. Boosted by impeccable lead performances, a great script and gorgeous black & white photography, it's hard to believe it was met with a lukewarm response upon its release. Set in 1950s New Mexico the film elegantly tells how the frontier is vanishing; to be replaced by progress and technology. Douglas' character, a wandering cowboy, is a symbol of nostalgia, where Trumbo's screenplay offers a cautionary observation about restriction of freedom and individuality. Themes close to home with the writer with the HUAC incidents still fresh in the memory. Lonely Are The Brave could quite easily now be subtitled the Punk Rock Western.
There's a number of scenes in the piece that leave indelible marks. A rip snorting fist fight between Jack and a one armed man is high powered and potent, the farewell scene between Jack and Paul's wife Jerry (Rowlands) is sexually charged and wrought with an impending finality. The whole pursuit as Jack and Whiskey scale the rocky hills, pursued by helicopter, car and a vengeful prison guard, is gripping and laced with emotion. While the finale, tho forewarned to us from early in the piece, is one of the most heart tugging moments in Western movie history. Director Miller doesn't have the CV that his work here suggests he should have; given the assured way he crafts this story. For he, along with all the others involved (must mention Goldsmith's evocative score too), has delivered a classy bit of cinema across the board. A pertinent piece about the changing world and the characters left behind in its wake. 9/10

Joel Productions by David Miller, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Abbey.
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau, Michael Kane.

Genres: Drama, Western

Keywords: helicopter sheriff based on novel or book loyalty horse modern society male friendship independence prison escape jail on the run escape fugitive modern-day western


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