Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, the movie has multiple twists and turns in the plot that keep you guessing. Atmospheric scenes evoke the Old West, everything from Pinkerton detectives to the Chinese building the railroad.
The best thing was the fascinating characterizations. Every character is well-drawn and rich. My favorite was Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe. He’s a bad bad man–a thief and a murderer–but it was fascinating to see the little touches that softened him. He would gun somebody down without hesitation, but in the next moment, he would make whimsical drawings of birds and people. His thoughtful smiles were infectious. His crew and horse were devoted to him. He was hardened, but infinitely gentle with the woman he hooked up with.
I plan to watch it again and again. Writers who study this film will learn lots about how to build their characters on multiple levels. Plus, it’s just a darn enjoyable movie!