An underrated early directorial effort by Clint Eastwood. The film opens as Union guerillas known as "redlegs" destroy the home and family of Missouri farmer Josey Wales (Eastwood). He joins up with Confederate soldiers to get his revenge, and, after years of battle, refuses to surrender to
Terrill (McKinney), the man responsible for his family's death. He even rescues Jamie (Bottoms), a wounded young rebel, from the Union soldiers, who send Terrill and the reluctant Fletcher (Vernon) after them. Josey and Jamie next pick up two Cherokees (George and Keams), a stray dog, and, after
rescuing them from Comanches, an elderly woman (Trueman) and her granddaughter (Locke). The old woman is so grateful she offers to let Josey and his ragtag bunch live at the farmhouse her son built. Josey manages to make peace with the Comanches, but the Union soldiers are another story.
Whereas Eastwood's homage to director Sergio Leone, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, was bleak from start to finish, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES begins with life (Eastwood and his family) and ends with life (the communal family). In between is a long period of healing and rebuilding wherein Eastwood re-examines
the "man with no name" screen persona he developed with Leone. THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is a cautiously optimistic epic, deeply rooted in American history. Wales, despite his efforts, is not a loner. Instead of surrendering and assimilating into the "rebuilt" post-war society full of
carpetbaggers, Klansmen, and dishonor, Wales and his group create their own society, steeped in honor, mutual respect and love. Bolstered by Surtees's magnificent cinematography, Fielding's fine score and an excellent supporting cast highlighted by the scene-stealing dry wit of Chief Dan George,
JOSEY WALES affirms life and community with bracing conviction. leave a comment