While westerns aren’t as popular as they used to be in the film industry, a new breed of 20th century set, period piece westerns, like “No Country for Old Men” and “Hell or High Water,” have redefined the genre. “Let Him Go,” released Friday, tries to follow in the footsteps of neo-westerns and, with a star-studded cast and beautiful filmmaking, manages to be a perfectly fine film in the genre.
Taking place in the mid-1960s, the film follows George and Margaret Blackledge, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, two ranchers who lose their son James, played by Ryan Bruce, in a farm accident. Eventually, James’ widow Lorna, played by Kayli Carter, remarries Donnie Weeboy, played by Will Britain, who exhibits abusive behavior towards her and her young son Jimmy, played by Bram and Otto Hornung. This causes George and Margaret to embark on a journey to get their daughter-in-law and grandson back from the dangerous Weeboy family.
In recent years, the western has become more self-reflective and, instead of telling stories of younger heroes, has shifted towards stories focused on older generations struggling with their past and present. “Let Him Go” has Costner and Lane giving incredible performances as two people trying to keep their family together even as outside forces and fate are trying to tear it apart. Everytime they are on screen, they captivate the viewer and make this story work.
The pair of actors are no stranger to westerns with Lane being nominated for an Emmy for her work in “Lonesome Dove” and Costner winning multiple Oscars for producing, directing and starring in “Dances With Wolves.” The pair returning to the western film decades later displays an older and wiser feel to their performances much like when Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci returned to crime drama in 2019’s “The Irishman.”
Other good performances include Carter, who holds the viewer’s sympathies for the entire film as a victim of domestic abuse, and Booboo Stewart, who delivers a powerful performance as Peter Dragswolf, a Native American who helps the Blackledges on their quest.
The film’s cinematography is impeccable with incredible shots that show off the landscape and display just how small the character’s are in their environment. Natural lighting is also used to bring a sense of realism to the film and the entire film looks absolutely gorgeous because of it.
Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino provides a beautifully haunting score that further pushes the film’s themes of getting old and hanging on to what you still have.
While the film is nice to look at with several powerhouse performances, it suffers from a decent plot that remains predictable. There just aren’t any unique twists in the story, and it hinders the film’s full potential.
The Weeboy family also isn’t as compelling as the heroes because there’s no clear motivation for why they are so deranged. While it is alluded to by a couple of lines by Blanche, played by Lesley Manville, the matriarch of the Weeboys, it’s not enough to account for all of the horrible things they do. Despite being a large family, the Weeboys are also pretty indistinguishable from each other, which makes understanding the villains even harder.
While not a groundbreaking film, “Let Him Go” has enough cinematic qualities and good performances to make it worth a watch for fans of westerns. However, for those who aren’t fans of the genre and were expecting something more investing, “Let Him Go” has very little to offer.