The Coen Brothers latest film is a Western anthology of 6 stories whose only overlap is that they explore the harsh realities of frontier life and death. It started life as the Coen’s first ever foray into television with it initially being a 6 part series for Netflix, but morphed into a film in the making process.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the tale of a singing cowboy with a dead aim. It features Tim Blake Nelson as a cocky, quirky cowboy who regularly breaks the fourth wall and has some great songs.
Near Algodones has James Franco as a bank robber with perhaps the best and worst luck all on one day.
Meal Ticket is a rather surreal tale of a travelling show run by Liam Neeson’s impresario and starring Harry Melling’s armless and legless actor.
All Gold Canyon is possibly the stand out story. Featuring Tom Waits as a prospector in what is almost a one man show. As he talks to the pocket of gold he believes is in the canyon we really start to root for a story with a happy ending.
The Gal Who Got Rattled has Zoe Kazan heading west on a wagon train and is probably the longest tale.
The Mortal Remains has five people on a spooky wagon ride discussing human nature. But where is this ride taking them?
All of this is presented as though they are tales in a book which we see in between each story with the pages turning between the stories with colour plate illustrations. Something that the streaming format adds here is the ability to pause the images and read parts of the story from the page.
The cinematography is beautiful, the acting accomplished and the stories all offer something different whilst fitting the overall theme. All of which is wrapped up in the Coen’s usual drily witty humour.