A Perfect World

A Perfect World ★★★★★

After tearing down the western in Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood decided to do some mythmaking of his own, about an outlaw instead of a lawman. His mastery of relaxed pacing makes this a pleasure to watch, but not without darkness - the late sequence with Costner's Butch Haynes coming harrowingly close to gunning down a family In-Cold-Blood-style is a great illustration of how heroes sometimes (maybe inevitably) end up failing us.

But my favorite part of the movie is T.J. Lowther as Butch's 8-year-old "hostage" Phillip. Movie history is full of precocious, hyperverbal youngsters who talk like grownups and are able to fully articulate all of their complex emotions in a way that adults aren't even able to in the real world. But Phillip is more like a real kid, stammering and doing most of his talking with his face. It works, and the emotional payoff of his seeming like an actual child instead of a screenwriter's invention by the end of the movie is significant.

I maintain this wouldn't be so underrated if it didn't have such a forgettable title.

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