Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Deadwood: The Movie ★★★★★

David Milch’s Deadwood ran for 3 seasons between 2004 and 2006 and is widely considered to be one the finest and best-written television programmes in the history of the medium. Rightly so, because it truly is an unforgettable masterpiece with some of the best characters – and best performances – not just in the history of television, but the history of the arts. I know, that sounds like ridiculously high praise, but anyone who has watched Deadwood will be nodding as they read this and in total agreement with what I am saying. There’s just something about Deadwood that is unlike anything else. If you haven’t seen the series, stop reading this and watch it. The movie will mean absolutely nothing to someone who hasn’t seen the show and is all the more powerful when you have seen the incredible 3 seasons first.

13 years since the show was cruelly cancelled, we fans have finally been given the ending we so crave. Even having watched the film multiple times, it hasn’t even begun to sink in. I still feel like this film was a dream and didn’t actually happen, so you will have to forgive the rambling adulation of this review. I absolutely adored every single second of Deadwood: The Movie’s 110 perfect minutes, and if you are a discerning purveyor of quality entertainment, you will too.

It’s 1889 and South Dakota is entering into statehood. Past and present residents of Deadwood are taking part in the celebration, which allows for all of our favourite characters to return to this historic site of their lives. With the exception of the late Powers Boothe, Ricky Jay and Ralph Richeson – who all sadly passed before the production of the film began – absolutely everyone has returned for this cinematic reunion. As with the series, the film absolutely belongs to Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen – now a far weaker man, but still as ruthless, foul-mouthed and defiant as he has ever been. McShane slips straight back into the iconic pinstripe-suited villain with a heart of gold, as if 13 years have never passed. It’s as remarkable a performance as ever from the great actor, but praise should be shared here between everyone – Timothy Olyphant is the best he’s ever been as an ageing and tortured Seth Bullock while other returning stars Molly Parker, Paula Malcolmson, John Hawkes, Dayton Callie, Brad Dourif and many more are all as brilliant as ever.

The 110-minute runtime gives enough opportunity for everyone to have something to say or do, making this feel like an essential epilogue for their characters and giving a real sense of closure. This is not a forced and unnecessary cinematic outing like Downton Abbey’s recent film but rather a much-needed continuation and climax for the sadly cancelled series that has lingered in purgatory for the past 13 years without an ending. Here, all of our favourite heroes and villains are given a fitting send-off with old scores settled and love triangles closed. No characters are left hanging and we can now confidently say Deadwood has finished.

It would be wrong to discuss Deadwood: The Movie without giving praise to our maestro, the phenomenal writer and creator David Sanford Milch who has crafted one of the richest and most Shakespearean Wild West tales to ever grace the screen. Shortly before beginning the Deadwood movie, Milch was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – so it feels unlikely that we will get another story from him. How fitting that his career should end on the phenomenal finale of his masterpiece. Thank you, David. 

All in all, Deadwood: The Movie is absolutely everything you want it to be and more. This is how you finish a series. When the film ended on my first viewing, I was speechless. In many ways, I still am – Deadwood: The Movie is an absolute masterpiece and one that earns the highest recommendation I can possibly muster. Bravo.

Sam Love

Deadwood at CeX

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