The Searchers ★★★★½

"It's this country killed my boy"

Americana. The Searchers is the quintessential American film, the story of a people who achieved what seems hopeless. America is the opposite of a noble failure, it is an ignoble success. It is a powerful nation built on racism, religious hypocrisy, and the destruction of others. The Searchers is about that world of men, and their all-consuming quests.

The Searchers remains the great Hollywood critique of American colonialism. It is about the futility of hate and futility in general. It is about a journey that goes on and on. It's about gaping despair in an uncompromising wilderness, a man stuck in the frontier, which is so perfectly captured by one of cinema's finest final shots. It encapsulates everything: that we may search for so long that we no longer have a home to return to.

The Searchers is pure traditionalism, but it has a subversive element. This may seem an odd analogy but it's The Last Jedi of westerns. It brings back old-fashioned themes but only after dragging us through nihilism. It defines love because it confronts hate. Ethan's rescue of Debbie is one of cinema's greatest twists, because it takes us full circle. Love does conquer hate, in fantasy America, but it only makes a real difference once you realise your hate.

The Searchers is not some twee story like many 50s westerns, it has moral nuance and dark themes. It's fun for the family and food for the conscience. It's a lot more than the story of a man looking for his niece. For starters, she's his daughter, metaphorically and literally. The Searchers is a powerful and deep film on what it means to exist on the edge of a world fuelled by hate. And will I ever see a better John Wayne performance? That'll be the day.

"They ain't white"

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