Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a drama which may remind some viewers of the early Terrence Malick films like Days of Heaven or Badlands. The film contains lots of long lingering shots of the landscape and the characters do a lot of introspective thinking. It is a slow, atmospheric movie that will appeal to fans of that style.
Casey Affleck plays Bob Muldoon, an escaped fugitive on the lam from the law in Texas. Bob is desperately trying to get home to see his wife Ruth Guthrie played by Rooney Mara who is well cast here. The couple were outlaws on a crime spree until they had a showdown with a bunch of cops in the Texas Hills. During the inevitable shootout Ruth wounded one of the officers but Bob took the rap for the offense and all their crimes. Bob received a long prison sentence while Ruth avoided going to prison and went home. Ruth gave birth to Bob’s daughter while he was away and he is obviously eager to see his baby girl for the first time. The cops pursue Bob after he escapes and it is only a matter of time before they catch up to him.
The trailer has a sense of impending doom as the viewer is made aware that Bob is living on borrowed time. A lot of of the exterior shots in the movie appear to have been filmed during the magic hour. That time during the last hour of sunlight where the lighting is often softer and warmer in hue. The term is used rather loosely but it is apt for describing this time of day and It accentuates the feeling of impending doom or darkness in the film. The scenes shot during this period are beautiful but that beauty is intermittent as darkness will soon cover the land. Maybe it is symbolic of the impending violence that will ensue when the cops finally catch up to Bob. It certainly feels that way when watching the trailer. The fact that the shoot outs depicted in the trailer happen at night make this connection even more plausible.
The trailer also gives the impression that the whole film is building up to this big event where Bob touches base with his family and then confronts the cops in a shootout. This structure is similar to what happens in a lot of old westerns. The hero or villain always ends up in a big gunfight at the end and the outcome is not always certain. In some ways the film does appear to play out like a modern western which is cool. Bob appears to spend most of the film traveling home while the cops make inquiries about him. One of the local cops Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) knows both Bob and Ruth and is preparing for Bob’s return. Skerritt, played by Keith Carradine is a local business man who likes Bob but won’t allow him to elope with the females in his life. Skerritt knows it will end in tears if Bob tries to run with his family in tow.
Casey Affleck plays an interesting character here. Bob appears to be a man who makes no apologies for his crimes but cares deeply about his family. The birth of his daughter has given him a new perspective on life and he wants to be a family man. Unfortunately his redemption came too late and he has to pay for the crimes he and his wife committed in the past. Had his wife given birth before they began their crime spree things may of turned out differently. Affleck has an unconventional acting style and persona which makes him well suited to play characters living outside the norm. Rooney Mara has the same quality which is why she was ideal for the role of Ruth. It will be good to see her introspection and find out how she feels about the crimes she committed with Bob. Foster and Carradine are both great character actors and they excel in every role they take on. They are also actors who are not quite famous enough to become household names. There is still time for that to change though. Maybe they will eventually get roles that shine the spotlight on them. Wheeler is close to Ruth and he also seems to like Bob. However he will have to do his duty as a copper when Bob returns which puts him in a difficult situation. Skerritt is a no nonsense kind of guy and he is ready to fight to prevent Bob from dragging his family into further bloodshed.
The music used in the trailer is perfect and it complements the slow pace of the film. The trailer is effective and it will appeal to fans of this particular style of movie. The director is fairly new to the feature film game but he dabbled with this subject matter before in his first feature called St. Nick. That film also featured a boy and a girl on the run and it was released in 2009. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the kind of film that attracts a certain crowd. It probably won’t appeal to fans who only enjoy fast paced movies with constant action. If it can strike a cord with the right audience it will do well.
The film will be released on August 16th so watch the trailer and share your thoughts.