Jane Got a Gun
Natalie Portman heads to the Old West in Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got a Gun to play a woman trying to defend her husband from a gang bent on killing him.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Westerns so my opinion might have been coloured by this but I have tried to be as far as I can on the merits this has as a film.
The lead character, Jane (Natalie Portman) is really well put together. She is a strong character who also manages to be vulnerable without this making her seem weak. Jane is fully able to conduct herself in a way that helps her survive in this harsh world and definitely has plenty of agency in the story. Natalie Portman plays her wonderfully as she strikes a balances between strength and vulnerability in a way that never stops being believable. The physicality to Natalie Portman’s performance makes it believable that she knows what she is doing.
Jane’s relationship with her ex fiancé Dan (Joel Edgerton) is one of the strongest parts of the film. There’s plenty of history there and a gulf between them that is clearly established. Joel Edgerton does a really good job here; successfully conveying the awkwardness of having to help defend Jane’s current husband Bill (Noel Emmerich).
The setup seems fairly solid as it lends itself well to the home invasion idea along with the brutal violence that many associate with this time period. Unfortunately it never quite comes together as the action feels disjointed and when it does appear it feels over too quickly. Some sequences are really good such as the home invasion sequence but the film takes too long to get there.
Part of the problem is the way that how everything led to this was told. Most of the story is relayed through disjointed flashbacks that completely drag the pace of the film down. It would have been worse if the history hadn’t been conveyed in some way but I never felt the necessary emotional connection that would have made these work. In a lot of ways they felt like a tick-box exercise to convey the information needed before moving onto something else. The performances of the actors help sell these but there’s not a lot to work with on the whole.
The villain of the film, Colin McCann (Ewan McGregor) was pretty limp. I’m not sure if this was down to the writing or McGregor’s performance but either way his presence left a lot to be desired. For whatever reason I never felt that he was a solid threat to Jane and Dan. I also never bought into his reasons for going after Jane and her family. It’s baffling that so much time was spent establishing Jane’s prior relationship with Dan but so little time was spent developing Colin and his reasons for going after them. I get the impression that Colin was supposed to be a character that the audience should hate but I never saw him as anything more than a minor inconvenience. McGregor’s performance definitely lacks any degree of menace.
In general the film looks really good. I found that the time period was brought to life nicely and we see lots of barren landscapes that reinforce the isolation that people would feel in this time. The action sequences are really well shot and some of the violence is really brutal in places.
An unenjoyable film that is dragged down by dull flashbacks and an unengaging villain. Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton are particularly good in their roles with special attention to be given to Natalie Portman for balancing strength and vulnerability nearly perfectly. Ewan McGregor lacks the necessary menace as villains go and the film takes far too long to get to the admittedly well executed action sequences.
- Natalie Portman’s strong yet vulnerable performance along with Joel Edgerton’s equally impressive acting
- well executed action sequences
- flashbacks that drag down the story
- an unengaging villain
- sloppy pacing