The Far Country, the fourth of Mann’s five collaborations with Jimmy Stewart, this Canadian Western might seem a comparatively lesser work vis-à-vis the two that sandwiched it, viz. The Naked Spur and The Man from Laramie, this alternately light and edgy film, albeit not as edgy as I’d have wanted, was nonetheless an engaging reinforcement of the Western hero. One might even find strong parallels of Hawks’ Red River in it. Jeff (Stewart) is a compulsive loner for whom such things as love, friendship, community, etc. don’t mean much. He is also a cattleman and the garrulous Ben (Walter Brennan) is his only companion. When his herd is forcefully confiscated by the slimy and thoroughly corrupt town boss Gannon (John McIntire), he is forced to steal them back while also joining the trail with a wealthy and vivacious saloon owner (Ruth Roman). But, it’s only a matter of time before Gannon and his thugs come back at him, and though his initial intent is to avoid confrontations even when he sees gross injustice on poor folks, before long a face-off unto death ensues. Interestingly, though fellow feeling gradually starts making an impact on his clinically cynical, jaded and ‘everyone for himself’ nature, the motive that finally makes him get involved is, like all Mann-Stewart combos, is good old revenge and encroachment on self-interest. Stewart did a fine job and he got good support from the supporting cast in this exquisitely shot film, with the cold, unforgiving, unpredictable and alienating Alaskan backdrop providing an apt metaphor for the protagonist’s utter apathy, clinical detachment and distressing coldness.
Director: Anthony Mann
Genre: Western/Psychological Western