THE MOVIE All the Pretty Horses, adapted from the 1992 National Book Award-winning novel of Cormac McCarthy, shows that an understanding of life can be attained by striving for a certain goal and hurdling the problems that come along.

Directed by actor Billy Bob Thornton, the movie stars Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, and Spanish sensation Penelope Cruz. The supporting cast includes Ruben Blades and Miriam Colon.

Damon plays John Grady Cole, a young Texas rancher who is in line to inherit a valuable piece of land. But when his grandfather dies and his mother sells the ranchland to a rude city folk, Cole and his pragmatic, good-humored best bud Lacey Rawlins (Thomas), hit the road in pursuit of free-spirited horses, fading west cowboy ways, and work.

But before crossing the Rio Grande, the two run into 13-year-old lad Jimmy Blevins (Black), whom they allow to go with them only to find out later he would become the source of much of their troubles, as the boy later engages in horse stealing.

Cole and Rawlins end up as cowboys taming mustangs at the large ranch of an English-speaking Mexican Don Hector Rocha (Blades). Don Rocha’s daughter Alejandra (Cruz) falls in love with love. Cole’s illicit affair with the girl brings him and Rawlins to prison.

A study of self-examination, life, friendship, and horses—that’s what All the Pretty Horses is all about. Although the plot, theme, setting, and set of characters are great, the adaptation is not well-crafted. The movie is really a hodgepodge. This may be due to the original four-hour roll of the movie which Thornton was reportedly told by studio bosses to reduce to two and a half hours.

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As a result, the frame transitions seem not to complement one another. Some characters just fade from the screen without any explanation. Cole’s best friend Rawlins questionably disappears in the story when Cole becomes friends with Don Rocha.

The actors, specifically Thomas, portray their roles realistically, except for Cruz. Her unfamiliarity and uneasiness with the English language is very obvious. This is very evident in the scene when Damon utters the line, ”I love you more than life itself.” Her reaction is meaningless. It seems that she is reciting a monologue—making the romantic chemistry between her and Damon a failure.

The setting of the film is undeniably great— the scenic Rio Grande carving out the canyon between Texas and Mexico, the dust-orange sunlight, the ranchlands, and all the pretty horses. Rose R. Jabeguero

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