A few years ago, I thought that the Western was dead. You’ll note that in the meta-structure of these posts I made Western into a category rather than a tag; because the structures and issues that the Western grapples with are woven into the fabric of Western Literature ™. Long-time readers will be tired of my assertion that The Iliad was the first Western. In my main readings, the Western is animated by nemesis, the opposition between two forces, typically between the Wild and Civilisation. Brimstone is defined by nemesis, even moreso than, say, Seraphim Falls.
This film was truly excellent – acting, script, production values, structure. It’s not going anywhere near my list of favourites or into any kind of list I might compile of must-watch Westerns mostly because it is almost unbearably grim. I can’t think of any Western that comes anywhere close to being this nihilistic and dark – it makes Django Unchained look like a Disney musical. In some ways it was nearly as tough as 12 Years a Slave, though that might be it hit some particular soft spots in my psyche. In fact, if I’d realised how tough a watch it was I might have opted not to see it at all – this is a top-end 18-certificate in my view.
It’s hard to go into things more without skirting spoilers, so look out for a more detailed response to this when it hits world-wide cinema release.