I don’t usually do this, but I rented a movie based on Roger Ebert’s recommendation. I don’t do it because Ebert’s view of movies is not mine: he likes naturalistic depictions of real life and I like stylized depictions of the way life should be. I wish I would have read the review a little closer because the fact that it is adapted from a Thomas Hardy novel should have been a red flag.
It’s a Western about a town faced with the coming of the railroad in the form of a railroad surveying party. The party is treated reverentially and the town is opened to them in a bid to secure a place along the railroad. At the same time, the movie is about the owner of the town (basically) and the difficulties he faces maintaining his rule. Finally, the movie is about a decision made by that ruler long ago and the repercussions it holds for the present.
The plot and theme are iffy in the sense that there are several of each. This dilutes the power and effectiveness of the plot and theme. The cinematography, on the other hand, is spectacular. You really get a feel for how dreary life was in the old West. So, in the end, I’d say that this movie is worth renting, but not a second time.