The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger ★★★★½

Uproarious, bloated and extravagant, The Lone Ranger is a cinematic delight of incommensurable proportions. With a well-spent budget almost as overwhelming as the lasting impression it leaves behind and a cast & crew formed of dedicated, passionate and cunning artists, the movie is a near perfect mix of humor, irony, action, tragedy and heart. It is a movie that despite having a very modern look drenched in heady visuals, eye-catching special effects and crafted artificiality while also commenting on a few ugly aspects of mankind, it nevertheless manages to evoke emotions of the purest kind. It's a celebration of what going at the movies truly stands for.

With The Lone Ranger director Gore Verbinski redefines the blockbuster, like he did with the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Aided by the same writing team behind the swashbuckling franchise, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, with the addition of Justin Haythe, Verbinski uses the radio series featuring the masked ranger to create an epic western like none other. When talking about Verbinski it's impossible to forget about his superb action scenes and his sense of scale. He has a knack for handling impressive and complex action set-pieces that abound in detail and are charged with adrenaline. Verbinski is likewise a master when it comes to weaving the story and exploring the emotional landscape in a fully exhilarating way, making an apparently complex plot easy to follow while also adding unpredictability to it and his characters. It's like the world he creates has no restraining rules and is governed by chaos (which often leads to comedic situations), when this is in fact a carefully and elegantly constructed conceit characterized by discipline and meant to keep the film a roller coaster ride from start to finish. He effortlessly shifts between tones and moods, transitioning from extreme to extreme with perplexing smoothness and exponentially increasing effectiveness. His recognizable approach is so unique and successful that it never fails to amaze.

Coming to the performances, Armie Hammer as the titular character wears his mask with ease and confidence, making the unlikely hero a sympathetic and veritable protagonist. Johnny Depp plays Tonto with amusing quirkiness but also moving pathos, commanding the screen with his presence. The two actors have great chemistry together, producing humor through well-timed pestering of each other and forming a solid duo with strong ties. The rest of the cast is excellent as well and there's no weak performer, except maybe for the child actor. Hans Zimmer's score is simply sublime, comprised of the right amounts of sweeping melody and bombastic notes. The use of the rearranged William Tell Overture during the final action set-piece was a terrific decision, as it gives the scene an alert rhythm and makes it completely engaging. The cinematography makes great use of the western setting, beautifully capturing the locations and granting the film a pristine look only occasionally disrupted by the use of CG effects.

Another area where the film excels but isn't given much credit is its framing device. The main story taking place in 1869 Colby, Texas unfolds as told by an old Tonto to a young boy at a fair in San Francisco 1933. Posing as a Noble Savage mannequin in a Wild West diorama, Tonto comes to "life" to tell his story, which he recounts with a deep sense of nostalgia. The bridging of the "real" world and the "legend" is done with care and ingenuity (the peanut bag appearing in both worlds and the ending with Tonto entering the diorama are personal favorites), with the main story being temporarily halted at times to great effect to emphasize certain key moments and to raise interest. The dynamic between old storyteller and young listener couldn't have been more appropriate in a western setting, as the old days are remembered with longing by those who lived them, a time when legends were being born, with the young listener's imagination being rekindled and the importance of ancestry and history reinforced. The old has no choice but to make way for the new and for progress, but what Tonto attempts to do is show the young boy that there's glory in the past that should be preserved. In this sense the 2013 film acts as a love letter to westerns and loving sarcasm to the time when they were viewed as the highest form of entertainment, horses and cowboys being now replaced with spaceships and superheroes. It is a sad but self-aware letter, one that reminds of a time when, while there were many drawbacks and negative aspects, or just plain ridiculous and dated aspects that would be best thrown aside, there were also important values that are now lost or forgotten. The Lone Ranger is in many ways the Last Action Hero of westerns, the swan song of an extinct genre and a last passionate reminder and exhibition of how fun, dear and adventurous the West can be, ridiculous or not.

There's sadness that runs through The Lone Ranger, tragedy is ever-present, idealism is faced with cold truth and trampled by human fallibility. There's biting critique and irony targeted towards the crimes committed under the flag of greed and violence. There's also humor, slapstick and adventure, the film explores each state with prowess and treats each aspect with respect without disregarding them but also doesn't take itself too seriously, making fun of itself out of love for what it stands for. It's the type of blockbuster that unfortunately is hard to come by but a groundbreaking and extremely entertaining film filled with joy. There's a scene with a horse drinking beer from a bottle he picks up with his mouth. That's as fun as a movie can get and for that alone, but for so much more as well, The Lone Ranger is robustly magnificent.

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