"Broken Trail" movie review

Wow.  This movie.  I first watched it about a month ago, and loved it.  I finished it for the second time last night after showing it to my parents.  (It was even better the second time around.)

Wow, just…wow.  It is amazing.  Truly, though, it is.

I'll probably just be gushing about Tom the awesome characters for this entire review, but…stay with me.

The story is about a semi-estranged uncle and nephew, Prentice (Print) Ritter, played by Robert Duvall, and Tom Harte (Thomas Haden Church).  On route to deliver a herd of horses, the two (and a friend they meet along the way, Heck Gilpin) encounter a sleazy slime ball (sorry.  that was just way too much fun to resist) who's been recruited to deliver five Chinese girls to a saloon in Idaho.  "Through a series of circumstances," as Tom says, they take the guardianship of these abused girls upon themselves, while still trying to carry through for their client.  Unbeknownst (for most of the movie) to them, another sinister man has been recruited by the same lady who "bought" the "Orientals" to track them down, as they are long past due.  (Oh, back track:  they actually pass through the town in Idaho - a harrowing scene, by the way - and on their speedy way back out another person is added to their little party - Nola Johns, a middle-aged prostitute trying to escape said sinister man, who had abused her in the past, and whom she had given up to the police.  Whew!  Okay, okay, I know I'm not good at explaining movies, but it's a bit complicated.)

Cast and Characters:

The one and only Robert Duvall as Print Ritter

Print is wonderful (when has Robert Duvall played a not-wonderful character, though?  Except for in Lonesome Dove.  I didn't really like him in that one, though to be fair I haven't finished that movie.  But really?  In Broken Trail, he refuses to touch those trapped in prostitution, and in Lonesome Dove, he literally can't stop talking and thinking about them.  Ugh).  I love Print's optimism, and his relationship with "little number 5" is adorable.  I don't know how I feel about the whole Print/Nola thing, so to be honest that aspect of the ending is still a little…I can't decide.  I mean, it's bittersweet in some ways, but in others…everything that absolutely had to happen in that ending did;)  Also, Print's trying to "right some family wrongs" is admirable.  And he's protective and brave and doesn't flinch when Ed Bywaters is threatening to - um…do unkind things.  When he almost spits out the Lord's Prayer at him…I love it.  'T'is great.  

Favorite Print lines:
~ "Never use money to measure wealth, son."
~ "Ain't nobody made it out here with out some divine luck attached."
~ Tom:  "Her name's Sun Fu."  Print:  "I know what her name is!"
~ "I didn't ride in on a turnip-wagon, mister!"
~ "Nephew…"
~ "We're all travelers in this world…birth 'til death, we travel between the eternities."

Thomas Haden Church as Tom Harte

*sigh*  Tom.  I love Tom.  He's awesome (be prepared - that word will be excessively overused in connection with this movie in general).  I'd seen Thomas Haden Church in We Bought a Zoo, and loved him in that (because, really?  "I have arrived at a thought."), but when I first watched Broken Trail, I was a little apprehensive at first about whether or not I was going to like him.  I think it's the way he talks - in a bit of a monotone.  You get used to it after a while, and it even gets humorous, but at first it's a little off-putting.  About a fourth of the way into the first part (in comes in two parts, so do not freak out when the first segment ends.  There's another one, I promise), he had completely won me over.  I think it was when he's sitting up all night with Mai Ling (Number 2) when she's *SPOILERS* dying of "tick fever" *END OF SPOILERS*  How he's just sitting there, holding her hand and generally being sweet and awesome.  *ahem*  He's pretty hard, emotionally walled up, and a bit impatient, but he has reasons for his walls.  And those rare moments when you can glimpse his wry sense of humor are great:D

Favorite Tom lines:
~ "I'd like to hear him play the fiddle."
~ "I say ["Bolshevik"  Whew!  That was close!  (If you get that reference, you're pretty awesome.)]"
~ "That's the second rope I've lost to some worthless                         ."
~ "Her name's Sun Fu."

The girls were all acted extremely well.  Even those who didn't have a big role in the film took their part seriously, and that's cool.  Your heart breaks for these girls several times over the course of the movie, but especially for Ye Fung (Number 4). *groan* (But, okay, isn't it a leetle unrealistic that she was the one constantly singled out to be raped?  I mean, I'm glad the others weren't, but sometimes you were just sitting there thinking, "How many times must this happen to this poor, precious child?!")  My favorite of the girls is probably either Mai Ling, Gin Wa (little number 5), or Sun Fu.

Other stuff:

I think this would be a good place to insert a warning.  This is a Western, and most Westerns are brutal in some way, but this one has a good bit of sexual brutality in it.  So watch with care.  It isn't rated, but I have a feeling that if it were, it might be R.  It isn't a very pretty film.  But honestly, one of the things I appreciate about this movie is the tough honesty.  It deals with human trafficking, and it doesn't mince words or sugarcoat anything, and I mean anything.  (Well, there is that one "merciful break" with Ed and Nola, but other than that, I mean…)  The filmmakers portray human trafficking for what it is - inhuman, terrifying, and brutal.  The opening scene is basically a brothel, with a prospective buyer (the sleazy slime ball - his name is Billy Fender) selecting five girls (above picture).  There is some female nudity in that scene, as well as implied inspection of the girls' bodies.  There is a rape scene in the movie, and while it is interrupted (Heck and Tom to the rescue!), that doesn't happen until after you see that Ye Fung is being assaulted over and over.  As a matter of fact, though, that's one of my favorite scenes, because it's Tom at his best, in my opinion.  (When he comes and shoots the guy's thumbs off - I know, I know, that sounds awful, but you'd have to see it in perspective - I love it, actually.)  Another amazing scene is the one on the ranch when Ed and his gang show up, and Tom rides in and rescues everyone.  *angel chorus*  



Seriously, though.  Their relationship.  How she slowly breaks him out of his years of fortifying his emotions…*teenage fangirly sigh*  That scene picture above - okay, for a couple minutes there (I wasn't scared!  Well, maybe I was a little bit concerned, but it's not the same thing)…whew.  I'm glad they got that right.  If they hadn't…this might have been a very different review.  *SPOILERS*  I was so scared she was actually going to leave.  And he was actually letting her!  Tom!  Wake up!  Thankfully, though, she stayed.  And how we can see just the hint of a smile when he sees her…oh my goodness… *END OF SPOILERS*

About the ending:

First off, it's not sad.  It's not.  It's even happy in many ways.  But it's not completely satisfactory.  It's real, though.  I just don't want to give everyone the impression that it's a sunshine-and-roses ending.  Some of it is (Tom and Sun Fu!!!) , but some of it isn't.  It's great, and I liked it better the second time around, but…depending on your view of a couple things, you might be dissatisfied.  But you should watch it anyway.  Anywho.

Also, quite a few main(ish) characters die over the course of the story.  I mean, you won't be completely devastated (well…unless a certain person is your favorite…), but it is heartbreaking in certain ways.

Okay, I need to stop rambling.  

My bottom line is, I loved this movie.  And you should watch it.  It's brutal, but it's also beautiful.  


  1. AHHHHHH!!!!

    *ahem* Calm down, Emma.

    What an AWESOME review, Arwen!!! And especially awesome because we seem to have the same emotions concerning this movie, haha. ;-P It's so great to read about someone else who loves it as much as I do! It's kind of an off-brand western, so it's not that popular, but it's SO stinkin' good! You have no idea how tickled I am that you think so too! :-)

    Yup, Robert Duvall is my second-favorite actor. You already know that. He is just such a joy to watch! He's often the reason why I'm drawn to movies like this one, and end up loving them. ;-P But oh, you don't like Lonesome Dove?!? WHAT?!? *ahem* I will not be aggressive. Yes, I know Gus is a womanizer....which is regrettable. But he has so many other great qualities, and he's so endearing despite it, and...oh, I can't help but be fond of him. And let me recommend watching the entire Lonesome Dove-- the second half is the best part. It's amazing. That's my favorite western, actually. I could go on about that one for hours....days, maybe....

    Where was I? Oh yes, Robert Duvall. Have you seen Secondhand Lions? He's hilarious in that one, and it's a really sweet, quirky movie (I love those best.) ;-P

    Tom Harte is the ultimate cowboy hero, in my opinion. He's rough on the surface, which is why it took me a while to like him, but then more and more you glimpse what a good man he is. I like him even more for his rough exterior. And I love how he's always turning up just in time to save the day-- the scene near the end (the really intense one where Ed shows up) is my favorite. OH MY GOODNESS. So many feeeeeels.....!!!!

    But yeah. Tom is awesome. I also really like Nola, actually. I loved the scene where she and Print are sitting together by the river and talking-- personally, I think their relationship/friendship was beautiful. My favorite line is when Print says, "I'd pay forty dollars just to watch you hang laundry."

    When the first part ended at that really brutal scene, I totally thought it was over. Done, that was the end. Very traumatizing. Thankfully the second part started right up!

    I LOVE the ending. LOVE it. It's not sad, like you said, though of course there are sad things about it. It's sooooo sweet. Tom and Sun Fu....OHHHHHHHH!!!!! Just, awww. It was adorable. I almost couldn't stand it.

    Anyway, I'd better stop now. :-) I loved reading your review! And I'm so glad I finally came and visited your blog-- where has it been all this time, I wonder? Or, more appropriately, where have I been? ;-P


    P.S. I leave you with this: watch Lonesome Dove. ;-)

    1. Thank you so much! YES. THIS MOVIE. I can't stop gushing about it--I'm just the teensiest bit obsessed at the moment.

      Robert Duvall. Forever and ever, amen. Okay, well, about Lonesome Dove--I have the feeling I didn't like him as much because I haven't yet seen the whole thing. But eventually, I will, and then I'll probably love him;) I did really like him in that scene by the river when he's talking with Woodrow (I think in maybe the third segment?) and he's reminiscing about Clara. He's really sensitive and sweet there, and when he's rescuing Lorie darlin' =D Good! Well, then, I shall have to finish it:D

      I LOVE Secondhand Lions! I've grown up on it, and I absolutely adore it. Robert Duvall's lines in that movie, though: "I'm Hub McCan. I've fought in two world wars on seven continents…" I can't finish that quote but OH MY WORD.

      Tom Harte may or may not be my current second-favorite hero in all of fiction *coughcough* I love him to pieces. YES THE SCENE AT THE END AND THE LITTLE MUSICAL THEME RECURRING AND THE SLOW MOTION AND OH THE FEELS!

      I really like Nola, too…I'm just still deciding whether I ship her and Print. But yes, that scene by the river…it's so adorable! And when Print says that…yes!:D

      THE ENDING. YES. Tom and Sun Fu and the snow and the feels and the realness of it all and I JUST CAN'T.

      Thank you sooo much for such an awesome comment! And aww, thanks so for saying that! (Yes, I will finish Lonesome Dove =D)

  2. Oh, yay! We should form a Robert Duvall fan club. Co-presidents. ;-P

    I just watched Secondhand Lions for the second time a few days ago....it's just so adorable! And OH MY WORD, I love that line. "THAT'S who I am."

    Yeah, Lonesome Dove improves on acquaintance. :-) There are some rough spots. BUT IT'S AWESOME.

    I've got to go, or I'd probably gush further....but I'm so glad we're getting to know each other! :-)


    1. Yes! A Robert Duvall fan club--I like it:)

      YES. All of Hub's lines are just fantastic, especially that one.

      Good! I watched a little more of it today and liked it better, so far:)

      Aww, so am I!:D


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