Good ol’ John Wayne and his westerns, they’re always dependable, and you know exactly what you’re getting with them. Stagecoach is an early western of his; in fact, his breakout role, directed by another dependable name: John Ford. The film itself is a by-the-books western, back in the days where the books were still being written, and Stagecoach did much to influence later works in the genre.
This is actually John Ford’s first sound western; he had previously directed plenty of silents in the genre. The story is simple enough; a motley crew of Arizona travelers hop aboard a stagecoach headed for New Mexico. Of course, all sorts of obstacles lie between them and their destination, and several passengers have their lives changed, obviously, for the better. It’s a standard film built to expectations, but in that, it has no real surprises, and I don’t mean of the twist kind. The film is so rudimentary that you know everything that’s going to happen as soon as it first pokes its head out. Thankfully, the characterizations are effective and entertaining enough to otherwise carry the film.
Orson Welles once regarded Stagecoach as like a textbook of filmmaking, and I can agree with this statement in both its positive and negative connotations. As annoyingly predictable as the film can be at times, it isn’t really a bad film, and I can’t fault it for doing what it does. This is still a good film in its own right, and one that deserves your attention, especially if you’re on an odyssey through the western genre.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10