“Stagecoach” is consumed by a series of scenes in which these characters gripe and grouse with each other before and during boarding the coach. None of these scenes is particularly inspired, many are corny and all tend to be overacted, with the exceptions of Wayne and Trevor. The key action sequence that, along with Wayne’s breakthrough performance, made “Stagecoach” a sensation in 1939 makes no sense...
This movie has everything you could want in a great Western: John Ford, Monument Valley, John Wayne so young and handsome it almost hurts to look at him. And there’s a climactic action sequence so dangerous its centerpiece stunt (performed by Yakima Canutt--remember that name) would be hard to recreate today without resorting to computer trickery.
The core of the drama is the young nation’s raw energy, the need to constrain that energy with law, and the abuses inflicted in the name of that law. The story’s stirring resolution only thinly papers over the painful notion that the country was outgrowing the heroes it needed.