Fort Apache 1948 ★★★

While it does build towards a potent and satisfying conclusion, the meandering nature of the first half of John Ford's subversive Western is a frustration. The focus on Fonda's character - an ignorant, unlikeable toff, firmly stuck in his old fashioned corporal demeanour, feels wrong, particularly when John Wayne's screen-filling presence enters frame. The melodrama sideplot between Shirley Temple and her dull lover also feels misplaced, like an effort to shoehorn the actress into a picture that has no real need for a love storyline - aside from the necessity of setting up the immortal line (delivered by Wayne, who else?), "And marry that girl!"

The ending tricks you into believe you've just witnessed a clever, exciting and ultimately politically-charged Western, when in fact what you've seen is half a good movie.

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