The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

“This is the West. When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend.”

It’s hard to not have sympathy for Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). He is a skillful gunfighter who is living peacefully in a small town, he believes in the way of the gun, he has picked his future wife, he is building a house for himself , he has the respect of the townsmen and seems like there’s nothing that can change his fortune. He is a blessed man by Western standards. In the first half of the film he is the triumphant character but as movie goes ahead his luck runs out. He is no longer the heart and soul and the pride of Shinbone. A young clumsy lawyer in the shape of Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) steals everything. He becomes the center of attention, he wins the heart of Hallie (Vera Miles), he is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance after all. And all this time Tom has to stay aside and look at his own bitter destiny. He is the classic John Ford hero. A traditional man who loses everything when the more modern beliefs take over society. And what makes this story more bitter is that here Tom knows that his time has passed. Knows that he has to let go of his legendary image and accept that there are no rooms for him in the new society. He helps Ransom to win the election and he is the real person who kills Liberty Valance, he even frees Hallie. And years later no one knows him. He is a usual man that no one even remembers. People only remember legends and he is not known as a legend. This is one of the most shocking films of John Ford.

There was a scene at the beginning of the film which almost made me cry. It is when Tom and Ransom first meet. As bruised and battered James Stewart lies in his bed waiting for Hallie to clean his wounds, Tom is standing beside his bed looking at him with a smile on his face. There was something in his eyes that moved me. It is hard to explain that moment but that was one of the most powerful scenes I've seen recently. And this film was one of the most incredible films I've seen recently. An undying film.

This doesn't contain many outdoor shots. There is almost no action in the film and there is more talking that action in this and perhaps that is why this film really stands out as something quite unique among Ford’s westerns. Many consider this his last great film and this is his penultimate western. His directing style is more controlled here and the film is narrated entirely in flashback. All these make this film an everlasting masterpiece and an Ford’s ultimate western which for no doubt is one of the best films made by the great Master.