Lone Star (1996; directed by John Sayles)

This was my favorite movie of 1996. The story is dense, but it's perfectly constructed and presented by the best screenwriter working today, John Sayles. It's sort of like Nashville (a big movie covering a lot of characters who interact in various ways) if it was written by Ross MacDonald (a story about families, and about crimes in the past which reverberate in the present).

The central plot involves the sheriff of a border town (Sam Deeds, played by Chris Cooper) who is stuck in the outsized shadow of the former sheriff, his father. Sheriff Buddy Deeds is dead, but he's certainly not forgotten.

But then a skeleton is found near the town, and it appears to be the remains of Charlie Wade, the corrupt former sheriff who Buddy Deeds drove out of town. So, suddenly Sam Deeds is put in the position of investigating a murder which his father may well have committed.

The story is set in a town on the U.S./Mexico border, near an Army base, so there are storylines involving Whites, Mexicans and Blacks, civilians, soldiers, politicians and police, and all the different ways those groups interact. Nothing visually exciting is going to happen, even the flashbacks are handled without special effects, but this is a movie which rewards your attention. I've seen it four times so far, twice in theaters and twice on video, and after writing this I feel like I'm ready to see it again.

Also Recommended:

By John Sayles: Limbo, Men with Guns

With Kris Kristofferson: Limbo

Best of 1999 / Best of the Decade

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