Broken Trail DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

Robert Duvall in a western? Who doesn't want to see that?
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Robert Duvall in a western? Who doesn't want to see that?
I wish Chruch and Duvall had done a commentary track together.
Robert Duvall stars as Print Ritter in this classically told western about herding horses, broken families and living up to your word. All of these are very popular ideas in the western genre and Duvall gets a lot of help in Broken Trail from a particular inspired Thomas Haden Church as his co-star. Anybody who has seen this actor in such shows as Wings or in the movie Sideways, knows that Church is as multifaceted as they come.

He and Duvall make a good team as they ride through the old west minding a herd of horses. When they are then given five Chinese girls to look after, things become even more complicated because they have to deal with outlaws bent on changing all their plans. Also, what would a western tale be without these two disparate groups coming together in some way? Broken Trail is one of those TV movies that while maybe not as big in scope as other westerns, goes down really nice whenever it is viewed.
Broken Trail: The Making of a Legendary Western

Here we have a "making of" that is pretty standard in every way. I didn't expect too much from this when I put it on, so I can't rightly say that anything about it disappointed me too much. The creative types talk about their work, bringing this movie to the big screen, and what it's like shooting a 240 minute western. Overall, I think we get a good feel for what this movie has to offer, while also getting insights into the characters and performers.
1.85:1 - Aspect Ratio. This movie looks pretty darn good for a TV western. The cinematography stands out the most. There is a quietness to western films that makes them seem somewhat archaic. This movie isn't afraid to be either soft or somber. It just tells it's tale without falling into any artifice except those that are indigenous to this genre. On DVD, with two discs containing it, I think Broken Trail ends up being more epic inspite of itself.
Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English. Audio in westerns is hugely important. We need to hear the crackle of the nighttime fires, the slow bustle of the small towns, and the gallop of the horses as the characters make their way. All of this is in order in this DVD set, but what really struck me was that I thought this movie would do really well in the home theater market. The film is long and thickly layered, and I can only imagine how it might look or sound on the Blu-ray or HD-DVD formats.
Duvall and Church grace this front cover in poses which seem to be how westerns have always been classically marketed. The main characters, in a moment of pensive thought, captured staring at the beauty of the world around them. Underneath these images are horses roaming around, and another shot of our two stars as they ride together. The back cover offers up a description of the show, some more images, a Special Features listing, and some technical specs. The two discs that make up this set are nicely housed in this packaging which is as economical as one might expect.
I knew that I was going to like this film when Thomas Haden Church explained why, after being celebrated for Sideways, he chose to do a smaller, TV movie because it was a chance to work with Robert Duvall. Factor in that this is also a western, and I can think of few people that a seasoned actor like Church would be better to ride over the hills with. I also think that Church got the better part of this deal, because this western seemed to benefit from being on TV.

How, you might ask?

Well, due to the medium it can afford to be longer and develop the characters more. This is a two disc set so the compression won't be nearly as severe. On top of that, who doesn't want to see these two fine actors develop their characters over the course of an elongated film?

Broken Trail may be small in budget but it's got true grit.

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