it’s potent, above all, because of the rare emotion that Strode brings to the title part. The political incorrectness that seems inextricably tied to some of Ford’s finest insights and moments comes to the fore in Strode’s climactic scene at the trial. Even if some other aspects of this film are labored and formulaic, this is a far more plausible attempt by Ford to deal with ethnic persecution and racism than his lamentable Cheyenne Autumn (1964).
Not sure I understand the hype on this one, except to say that it has its moments of dramatic subtlety and gorgeous photography. Most of all, it strikes me as an artifact on how Ford could tell a story centered on a dignified black man, so long as said black man helps kill Indians and doesn't have his name above the title. As always, the mixture of grace and over-the-top hamminess in Ford can give you whiplash.
The story is riddled with scarring memories of slavery; under the movie's taut martial virtue, Ford virtually shouts with rage at the country's unredressed legacy of violent racism.