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The Timber Reviewed by Nigel Burris

Shot in the stunningly beautiful Carpathian Mountains, The Timber is a Western that features an odd editing style, and the kind of elliptical narrative that could well alienate audiences expecting a more straightforward plot or storyline. It’s a bold move on the makers’ part and while it does add to the overall, nightmarish quality of the brothers’ journey, there are also times when it proves frustrating. Scenes appear disjointed, and the movie is peppered with flashbacks and Samuel’s musings on the events that take place and his own mental state. It’s not a conventional approach by any means, but in the hands of screenwriters O’Brien, Steve Allrich and Colin Ossiander, it does make for an absorbing, though unpredictable viewing experience.

That said, there are enough genre conventions to help the wary viewer along. Howell is the devious land baron, Samuel’s wife Lisa is the plucky frontierswoman with a mind of her own, and the brothers are the traditional good men trying to stay that way. These staples help the movie immensely when its non-linear approach kicks in, its deliberately steady pace allowing for more detail than expected, and for the themes of betrayal, greed, revenge and madness to work their way through the narrative more effectively. It’s a considered, more thoughtful Western, and it retains a moral compass that anchors the characters.

Samuel and Wyatt appear to be opposites, with the younger brother, Samuel, seeming to be less experienced and less mature, but as the movie progresses he proves to be his brother’s equal, and by the movie’s end he’s passed through what might be termed an adult rite of passage. Wyatt is more confident, firm in his beliefs and unafraid of doing the difficult thing, but he proves just as unprepared for what happens on the journey as Samuel. In a way, it’s his over-confidence that determines how much trouble they’ll both face, and whether or not they’ll survive the ordeal.

On the distaff side, Lisa and Maggie are the type of dependable women who seem used to being left by their men, and who harbour a mainly unspoken resentment of it. Maggie is fearful for her sons’ return because she’s already lost her husband to the Timber; she doesn’t want to lose them in the same way. Lisa is fearful because of her newborn child and being left alone, and sees the brothers’ quest as being irresponsible. When they leave she makes her feelings clear by avoiding a kiss from Samuel, then adopts his role by guarding the property while they’re gone. She’s a practical woman because she has to be.

Peck and Ransone make a good pairing, their physicality and dramatic intensity proving an apt fit for the material, while Lasowski offers grit and determination to spare. Kennedy uses Maggie’s loss to present a woman living in both the past and the present, and Bailie gets the chance to reveal a greater depth to the sheriff’s character than is at first apparent. As the underhanded Howell, Glover exudes a cold nonchalance that befits his character’s greed, and for those of you who may be wondering, yes it is the same William Gaunt who appeared in the cult Sixties’ TV series The  Champions who plays Jebediah (though you’d be hard pressed to recognise him).

With the Carpathians standing in for Canada’s Yukon territory, and what must have been a difficult shoot due to the conditions – there are plenty of moments where Samuel and Wyatt are wading through knee-deep snow – The Timber is a movie full of arresting visuals and stunning scenery. O’Brien directs with a reliance on close-ups to add a measure of unnerving claustrophobia to the wide open spaces, and keeps the madness – or mountain sickness – from being too over the top. At a trim eighty-two minutes, the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome, and while as mentioned before, it provides enough genre staples to keep most Western fans happy, it’s still likely to divide audiences at the end of the trail.

Rating: 7/10 – a solid, no frills Western with a psychological core, The Timber is a well-intentioned, idiosyncratic movie that impresses as often as it hesitates; there’s much to appreciate here, but it may depend on your frame of mind when watching it as to just how much appreciation it’ll receive.


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The Film Philosopher's Review of The Timber

"Brothers Wyatt (Ransone) and Samuel (Peck) are caught between a rock and a hard place. The bank is going to foreclose on their house and the land it sits on, and there is only one alternative they are given. Go up into the unforgiving mountains, and bring back a man who is not only a wanted criminal but also their long estranged father. Without much choice they, and a bank appointed bounty hunter (Mark Caven), head up into the harsh elements to save their land, their mother, and Samuel’s wife (Elisa Lasowski) and new born son. Almost immediately the frozen conditions wreak havoc on their mission. With their coach and horses lost, they press onward only to find that their father isn’t the only mad man in the mountains.

This movie is right up my alley. Great story, excellent acting, beautiful cinematography, and a wonderful score. There was not a thing I disliked. Just what the cast and crew went through to film this makes my jaw drop (average temperatures were below zero), and they should all be applauded because what their sacrifice yielded was an excellent film. This is not some big budget (The movie was made for around $2,000,000 which is very modest) special effects bonanza. There are few of the trappings of a typical Hollywood hit, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. The story, acting, and setting are what make this movie work. Ransone is much better than I expected in the lead role. He portrays Wyatt with a quiet strength that brings to mind the heroes of Westerns long ago. Really the entire cast do a great job. I was delighted to see two of my all time favorites Julian Glover and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Both for some reason left off of the IMDB cast list) in minor but strong roles.

This movie is not for the action junkie or the Comic book movie fan boy. It is for lovers of true cinema. If you are one, like me, you should not miss The Timber”.


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