Day of the Outlaw

91 minutes

Arguably Andre de Toth's greatest film, this 1959 western combines a hostage situation with a bleak, snowbound terrain to produce a gripping vision of hopeless entrapment. Robert Ryan stars as a rancher who's about to start a gunfight over land when a motley gang of outlaws led by Burl Ives ride in and take over the town. Because it's at the end of the trail, the outlaws become "prisoners of a white silence," in de Toth's words: isolated, surrounded by snow, they're about to run wild with the townswomen when Ryan leads them on a false escape route through the mountains. Their final ride is one of the most despairing visions in all cinema: the turning course followed by the men seems to twist back on itself, and the stark black-and-white background of rock and snow forms a closed, lifeless world excluding all human warmth.

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