Saturday, October 19, 2019

[Review] The Mustang

Wild horses running through a magnificent countryside — now that’s a special kind of freedom. Those are the opening images of The Mustang, a gritty prison drama with the heart of a stallion. 

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Roman, an incarcerated felon with a violent past and a major anger problem. 12 years into his sentence, he’s placed into a rehabilitation program led by a rancher (greatly played by Bruce Dern) where inmates are tasked with training mustang horses. During the tricky process, Roman begins to learn the ways of the animals, and in turn he discovers a lot about himself.

Like training a mustang itself, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre approaches the film with patience and conviction. It’s an unflinching look at a harsh environment, and it’s orchestrated with the utter rawness of a documentary. It’s quietly powerful, it’s intensely physical, and it’s a delicate balance of bleakness and hope. Matthias Schoenaerts gives an excellent and deeply felt central performance. And while we might not ever feel complete sympathy for his character, the scenes of him bonding with his assigned horse are beyond moving. Out in the dusty fields and the neck-roasting sun, there is a shred of redemption to be found.

I also always appreciate a film with a great final shot, and The Mustang has a phenomenal one. In this story, the beast tames the man. 

( 7/10 )

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