George Stevens’ Shane is such a classic western that it has transcended the concept of a “western”. It’s bright and full, never doubts itself, and it’s sweeter than candy corn, mostly thanks to the actor who plays young Joey. Joey is such a sugary sweet bundle of innocence and adoration that the film almost rolls into self-parody; it’s mostly because of the direction of the rest of the film that keeps this grounded overall.
George Stevens sure knew what he was doing; this is one of the most solidly directed westerns I’ve seen in a while. It’s a “prairie western”, rather than a “desert western”; the two seem to be separate branches of the same tree. A lot of what I’ve said in the past about westerns applies almost doubly for Shane; it follows the tropes to a T, keeping its narrative on the straight line and never deviating from it. The story itself is a classic one, of a gunslinging stranger helping out a ranch owner and his peers from a ruthless land baron determined to drive out the company and claim the land for himself. There’s no real surprises, but the story is still very entertaining, in a classic sense.
There’s a lot to like about Shane. As much as it is like a lot of other westerns out there, it does just about everything so right that any film lover can’t help but love it. It’s as great as a textbook western can ever hope to be. Now, if you’re not a fan of westerns, this is probably a little too close to a perfect western for your tastes, but if you’re open to the genre, well, this is pretty close to a perfect western, so it should definitely be on your to-see list, if you haven’t seen it already. There’s few westerns as generally likable as Shane; you can quote me on that one.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10