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A rich tapestry – 2 hours flew by
bob the moo5 April 2003
The discovery of a skull and a sheriff's badge on a disused military firing range prompts Sheriff Sam Deeds to investigate. Sam has long lived in the shadow of his father Buddy, himself the sheriff at one time. However clues point to the fact that the skull may belong to Charley Wade, the corrupt sheriff who `vanished' to Mexico when Deeds challenged him many years prior. However when Sam begins to ask questions that go deeper than the legends, he finds secrets within the border town that hit very near home.

Having just watched The Hi Lo Country (a modern day western with a sprawling story but focused on one thing), I was put in mind to watch Lone Star again. Lone Star is easily the superior film and is a rich weaving of many characters and stories all around one event. The one event is the uncovering of an old murder (possibly) and this central investigation holds the attention easily. Within this investigation and the lives that Buddy affected we are shown a lot of subplots – some followed through, others just giving us enough background to understand the characters. All of these work very well and as a result you don't feel like the film is wandering when it moves away from the investigation by Sam. The subplots are so well translated that we are given a lot of back story to complex characters in a very short time.

For the script to be able to create so many characters that feel real and that have meaningful things going on is impressive. That it makes them all work is amazing and is due to Sayles both writing and editing. As director he is great as well, avoiding the washed out desert feel many `Mexico related' films have and instead goes for richer colours that reflect the rich mix of communities that are in his story.

The acting is faultless all round. No one actor stands out regardless of screen time simply because no one goes over the top and everyone realises they are playing part of a story – even Cooper (realistically the nearest thing to a lead actor) plays it down rather than taking the film over. Morton is good even if his character is the least connected to the investigation, McConaughey is strong despite being little more than a cameo, likewise with Kristofferson. McDormand has a small role but is very impressive as Deeds' ex-wife. Elizabeth Peña, so often dumped with almost token Espanic roles is given a real good part and works with it well. I could list them all, however if any one person stands out it can only be Sayles himself – he takes all the strands and brings them together. I watched a 90 minutes comedy earlier the same day that had dragged. At 130 minutes this simply flew – it is that engrossing.

Overall some will find it too slow, too character driven, sadly some will just not sit through a good story if that's all there is to it (all!). I think this was reflected in poor box office at the time (comparatively poor anyway). But those who have seen it will generally love it – if only more people would watch it! A final word on the film – the ending is shocking and sensationalist on paper and a lesser man would have made a big deal out of it. Sayles simply ends the film softly and leaves us the audience to take what we will from it. Low key from start to finish – I can't praise it enough.
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The sins of the fathers come back to haunt
Bill-30831 January 1999
John Sayles' direction of this film reminded me of Hitchcock in that I was always aware of the director's style and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the acting and the story. Like "Godfather," this is a tale of families and how the sins of the fathers cast their shadows over the generations. To illustrate the connection, Sayles will slowly track his camera from a conversation in one part of a room to another part of the same room where characters who lived 25 years earlier are conversing. The years have passed, we realize, but all the characters, even the dead ones, are in this together. The technique may sound strange, but it works magically. And another thing: I've always thought Kris Kristofferson was a better singer than actor, and a better songwriter than singer. But in this film he turns in an outstanding performance as a very very bad Texas border town sheriff who disappeared years ago and whose bones have just turned up in the desert. At least we think those are his bones, and to solve the puzzle, the current sheriff, son of the man who became sheriff when Kris disappeared, must dig further than he wants into the town's secrets. And once again, knowing how the film ends makes subsequent viewings just as fascinating as the first.
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Sayles' Masterpiece
ProfessorFate13 December 2000
I just bought this movie on DVD and watched it for the first time in a couple of years, and once again it amazed me. While most scripts stumble recklessly from one hackneyed plot device to another, "Lone Star" flows like a steady, winding river, never letting the viewer see too far downstream. The spine of the film is Sherrif Sam Deed's investigation into a thirty-year-old murder, yet this story is quickly absorbed by many finely scripted subplots and an overall theme on the futility of trying to escape history. While most directors can't help but show off when using flashy camera movement and jumps in continuity, Sayles employs such a subtle directing style that his leaps in time and location are seamless. Sayles fleshes out his script with subplots on racism, national pride, censorship, generation gaps, politics, social revisionism, and on and on. Most directors don't tackle this many topics in a career, yet Sayles juggles them all in one film without jamming them down the audiences' throats. If the subplots in Sayles' "City of Hope" were connected like a series of dominos, here they are gently woven together like a colorful, well-worn Southwestern quilt. The love story between Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Pena is both wistful and steamy. The film's social conscience is compelling. The father/son conflict between Otis and Delmore Payne (Ron Canada and Joe Morton) feels totally realistic. The dialoge is concise and insightful. Fate hangs over every character and every moment. Plus "Lone Star" has one of my favorite "final scenes", one that perfectly sums up the ironies of the film. It is simply one of the best movies I have ever seen.
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shark-4313 September 2001
Ive always admired Sayles as a writer and a filmmaker. His early films (Secaucus 7, Brother from Another Planet) even though they were rough and messy had wit and brilliant acting, but when he gets it right, he gets it right: Matewan and City of Hope are two examples of multi-layered stories with believable three-dimensional people in powerful situations. Lone Star is an amazing film: characters that are on screen for even a few minutes come of as real people, flesh and blood, no cardboard cut-outs here. Great performances from Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Pena, Joe Morton and many, many more. Taut, funny, thrilling and emotional. Great film by a great talent.
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One of the best movies ever.
cstoll70036 July 2004
This just ran tonight on HBO. I haven't watched it in a few years now. Lone Star has, if anything, improved with each viewing, which is really saying something because I remember how truly riveted and fulfilled I was on its first viewing in the theater. This is film-making at its very best.

This must be one of the all time greatest pieces of writing for the cinema. Period. So many characters are here and they're all richly developed and mined to make you think even more about the film's many themes. The story just hooks you right from the start and is utterly absorbing, and the layers of subplots and meanings reach dizzying heights of complexity and poignancy without sacrificing entertainment value. You practically walk away from the film saying "yes, for once someone has something to say and it's said so eloquently". To me, Lone Star is one of the masterpieces of American movies.

This has one of the greatest final lines that I've ever seen in a movie. That last line illuminates everything that has come before it in a way that is both shattering and ironic. The performances are uniformly superb, and you can just imagine what the cast was thinking, with the opportunity to perform this piece. All the technical aspects are first rate, which makes you truly wonder why movies cost so much in Hollywood. The music is outstanding. But at the end of the day, it's the incredible writing here that lingers. The second half of the movie pays off in spades due to the development of the many characters and sub plots that are so brilliantly interwoven. The movies Lone Star reminds me of most are The Last Picture Show, Chinatown, and Nashville. Take my word; if you like any of those pictures and haven't had the distinct pleasure of seeing Lone Star, please give it a chance. You will not be disappointed.
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Great movie -- one of the few I watch over and over.
swhite-148 July 2005
I live in San Antonio and have been to Eagle Pass (where the movie was filmed) many times. I have watched this movie over a dozen times. It is a wonderful piece of film-making! John Sayles captures a lot in this film. His characters have depth and substance. His portrayals of the role racism has played in Hispanic and African-American lives are brilliant but not heavy-handed. The acting is incredible. The casting was perfect. Frances McDormand as Sam's ex-wife is unforgettable. I agree with another commenter that the camera work was exceptional when Sayles filmed flashback scenes using a single take. I especially liked the scene along the river with Sam and Pilar. I am sure there are some people who don't share my opinion, but this movie is one of my top ten favorites of all time.
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An entrancing yarn.
mhasheider15 October 2001
An entrancing yarn that takes place in a small, quiet Texas border town where the memories of two former lawmen, the crooked Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson) and the legendary Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) are slowly resurrected when the remains of Wade are found on an deserted Army firing range by Deeds' son, Sam (Chris Cooper), who is the current town sheriff. Throughout the movie, Sam visits some of the locals and asks each one if they knew what happened to Wade and if Buddy had a role in the murder. Writer-director-editor John Sayles serves up an unpredictable gem here with a great cast that includes Joe Morton, Elisabeth Pena, Frances McDormand, etc., and to me, it seems like nearly all the characters here make sense right up to the end.
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John Sayles' best movie
lee_eisenberg19 October 2005
"Lone Star" was John Sayles' first look at a state, followed by "Limbo" (Alaska), "Sunshine State" (Florida) and "Silver City" (Colorado). This one focuses on a border town in Texas, and the influences of and conflicts between the white, black and Hispanic populations there. It starts when they discover the remains of racist Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson), murdered under mysterious circumstances many years earlier; Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) leads the investigation. In the process of everything, we get to see - among other things - the battle over education in the Lone Star State: the school only wants to teach the white people's side of history, but Pilar Cruz (Elizabeth Pena) wants to teach it from the Mexican point of view. As it is, this town carries many secrets, many of which are about to blow open. This was, in my opinion, John Sayles' greatest movie ever. It is not to be missed.
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A good watch for those who missed it in 1996.
=G=7 April 2002
In "Lone Star", a skull is found in an isolated part of a Texas border county which begins an investigation by the local Sheriff who must unlock a closet full of skeletons to solve the mystery. Critically acclaimed and a high scoring flick on this website, "Lone Star" is a film to be reckoned with. It features solid performances without the usual blockbuster star power, an engaging story, a real feel, and masterful editing which allows for a seamless presentation of the numerous flashbacks required to tell the story. You'll find little emoting or little reason to emote in this matter-of-fact contemporary film which ends with a kicker. Worth a look for just about anyone mature enough for the subject matter.
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See it, and then see Touch of Evil!
gromit-1410 September 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed Lone Star. The story was well-constructed and presented, and kept me interested and guessing throughout. The acting is understated and exceptional. Throughout the movie, I was reminded of Orson Welles' masterpiece, "Touch of Evil", also about a border town.
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Perhaps Sayles' best film
ametaphysicalshark30 April 2008
John Sayles is not only a great director, but he is also a truly great writer, and "Lone Star" is simply one of the best-written films of all time. Out of the 30+ scripts I studied in script analysis classes, this was, other than "Manhattan", the most interesting, involving, evocative screenplay I read during that period, and probably the one with the most depth. I saw the film a few months after reading its screenplay, and found that it far surpassed the mental image I had in my head of the film.

"Lone Star" could have been a standard mystery. It could have been a 'modern Western', or it could have been a superficial race drama, but it is none of those things (at least not exclusively), it is a fascinating, subtle look at race relations in Texas, as well as at basic human nature. Unlike the contrived writing one would find in an 'Oscar bait' drama film, Sayles' interwoven plots don't feel forced simply because he sets them up so well. The depth and scale of the writing here is remarkable, especially because the film, with all its subplots and characters, never feels cluttered or unnatural. This is a character study of the highest order, and there's no point in discussing the actual events of the film further because this is a film that is best seen (or, indeed, read) with fresh eyes, and I'd hate to spoil that for readers who haven't seen the film.

It's a sad fact of life that directors like Sayles, who see films as stories that must be told, and direct them well, but without intrusive and obvious stylistic quirks, are less noticed than directors who practically beg for attention. That's not to say that this film is not well-made, because anyone with any sort of experience with technical details of cinema could tell you that it is a very well-shot and very well-edited film with excellent use of music. That said, this film is ultimately about the writing, and the acting, and both are absolutely superb, the standout from the latter category being Chris Cooper, who gives what is probably one of the nineties' best performances in this film.

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Underrated Masterpiece By One Of America's Greatest Independent Filmmakers
gogoschka-111 February 2018
John Sayles' best film: amazing, epic story; beautifully told in elegant flashbacks, featuring Chris Cooper in one of his best roles. A film of stunning beauty and humanity - and also very entertaining. 9 stars out of 10.

In case you're interested in more underrated masterpieces, here's some of my favorites:

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Cannot recommend this enough
trink71-854-74752725 November 2013
I won't try to describe how wonderful this film is, because other reviewers have done a better job. Just reading the reviews of others similarly moved--CHANGED dare I say (I do daresay, because I am given to hyperbole) by this film causes a big lump of feeling to grow in my throat, and I don't really have much more to say except to lend my voice to pumping up how important it is to watch this "little" film. This "little" movie is so perfectly, astonishingly human, it encapsulates so much pain, feeling, experience, I am a big ol' wordsmith but this is the kind of thing that makes me stop typing, because it is so beautifully painfully real that after watching I find my words dried up. Because even if it is a specific story about a specific time and specific people, it manages to encapsulate human lives with a painfully--AND I MEAN PAINFULLY--beautiful universal story. I can't think of another film that I get choked up even by reading about, and I am a cold hard cookie. Sayles is gifted. But if you are turned off by adoration for a director, skip that sentence, please, because this tiny long beautiful story WILL affect you. And make you think and feel and all sorts of dumb stuff maybe you thought you were too hard for, especially in an "old" and even slightly dated film. There is the kind of familiar beauty in this that you won't find anywhere.

And of course, forgive me for saying, but Chris Cooper is brilliant in this, he is the actor you have seen in a million things but didn't realize it because he dissolves himself completely in EVERY role, because he is the ultimate in admirable acting: you don't even recognize how many things you have seen him in, most likely, because he is ZERO PERCENT about recognition and 100% about the craft. Look him up and be blown away at the things he has been a-feckin-mazing in and you didn't even KNOW it was the same actor, that's how far he immerses himself in his roles!
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My favourite film of all time.
eastie11 September 1999
This is the only film I've ever seen for the first time, and then rewound and watched straight through again without even getting up for a cup of coffee. I don't even know where to begin in listing its qualities. Few films succeed in addressing such complex issues as race; our relationships with our parents; the nature of our attitudes to history; and the way the past shapes our lives in so subtle a manner as this. Somehow, John Sayles has managed to touch on all of these questions, without at any point being didactic, and to deal with them realistically and with respect to their complexity.

Most amazingly of all, Sayles shows all sides of the various arguments running through the film and yet still manages to produce solutions, or at least the hope of solutions. That he is able to achieve this is a consequence of the humanity of his outlook. With the exception of Charlie Wade - the one straightforward character in the script - everybody in this film is complicated, realistic and, above all, sympathetic. The smallest cameo parts - the old lady playing a gameboy; the "as liberal as the next guy" bartender - are more interesting and plausible than the central characters in the majority of films.

All this in a film which is not ostensibly character- or issue-driven. A film which instead features an involving mystery and an affecting romance, as well as numerous subplots (all beautifully paced and integrated), and in which almost everything proves to be connected.

Great works of art shouldn't have to throw their message into the audience's faces. Instead, as the audience looks at their more superficial aspects of beauty or excitement, they should be drawn into their subtleties and more interesting depths. In Lone Star, everything - the arguments about race and the past, the tangible sense of a real community, the subversiveness of the film's ending - flows from what is at base simply a good story. This film is one of the outstanding achievements of 90s American cinema 10/10.
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The best film of the '90s
Bill Pierce21 August 1999
John Sayles is one of the best--and certainly among the most interesting--American directors working in film today. Self-financed on a small budget, using his large number of talented friends as cast and crew, Sayles crafts films that owe allegiances to no one but himself. Virtually never does he make the same film twice, and almost all of them are a great pleasure to watch.

"Lone Star" is Sayles' masterpiece. It succeeds on every level: as mystery, as romance, as social commentary. Set in a Texas border town, it creates a rich world peopled with characters and situations we understand and identify with.

There is plot, mood, color, drama, passion, suspense and even humor, but if pressed to explain what it really is about, I would say that the theme is how the present is a product of the past, and how people are given opportunities to be imprisoned by it or to transcend it.

"Lone Star" is one of only two American films of this decade (the other is "Schindler's List") to which I would give a '10'. It's been a long time since I have felt so thoroughly challenged, entertained and satisfied by a single piece of art.
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Best Movie of 1996
campblood136 August 2003
The flashbacks with Kris Kristofferson are some of the most moving and brilliant scenes on film. He should have got an Oscar nomination. Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Pena have great romantic chemistry. There is so much more going on just besides the mystery of who killed Charlie Wade so many years ago. All the actors are wonderful, in a great setting, and great script. The ending is my favorite part, when the biggest secret of all is revealed. It shows that love can overcome anything. 10/10
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A Great Big Wall Mural of a Movie.
rmax3048231 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This presents itself as a mystery in which the local sheriff (Chris Cooper) investigates the decades-old murder of a real mean old-time sheriff (Kris Kristofferson) but that plot is hardly more than a peg on which to drape a series of character studies that add up to a sketch of the social dynamics of small-town Texas.

Cooper's investigation leads him into contact with individuals of varying backgrounds who could easily have been turned into stereotypes by a lesser writer. Here they emerge as quirky, robust characters in themselves. The problem of the murder, which Cooper is discouraged from looking into, recedes into the background.

Mostly this is Sayles' look at three sub-cultures: red-necked, savvy Texas rustics, the flourishing and ambitious Mexican community, and the more marginalized African-Americans who run the roadhouse on the outskirts of town and who have populated the local army base.

Sayles has used this tripartite structure before, most notably in "Matewan." The intent of the earlier film was more didactic and its execution more obvious. "We all have to pull together to achieve a common goal." (Cf., Muzafer Sheriff's "Robber's Cave" experiment.) In "Lone Star" the important conflicts have more to do with family relations and love affairs, including interracial ones.

Elizabeth Pena plays Cooper's simmering long-time love. Whew. She's slender without being shapely. Her features are large and not "pretty" by Hollywood standards. But she's a magnetic figure on screen. She moves languidly and her speech kind of slouches around its phones, the words melting slowly into one another. I grew up near the New Jersey neighborhood in which she lived and it was a quiet Cuban settlement where you could find a cup of espresso coffee for a nickel. It was hardly elegant but it was safe and tolerant, even welcoming. She's a little like that.

Her exact opposite is Frances MacDormand, Cooper's ex, who is obsessed by football and other sports and describes herself (in a short scene) as "wound up", but any shrink is more likely to recognize her as a mild bipolar in a manic phase, full of speech pressure, poor judgment, and irritability. ("Had any more of your fires lately?", asks Cooper gently, inquiring about some goods he left behind when he moved out.) There's a neat exchange between the two of them. "I guess you didn't know I was tightly wound when we got together," she says to him as he's leaving. "It wasn't only you, Bunny," he replies. "I know," she says with some of her irritation returning. That's pretty good writing. It avoid turning her into nothing more than a flake and it points up Cooper's own imperfections and the certain insight that two intelligent people have into a now-extinct love relationship.

I may run out of space here, and we don't want any red flags, so let me just say that this is a movie with a measured and deliberate pace, more interested in people than plot, and that it's superbly acted by all of the principals. (Some of the minor parts are no better than they should be.) It's atmospheric too. It's a film for adults and might better be avoided by the child-like because it doesn't have much in the way of gun play. The only one-dimensional character is Kris Kristofferson's greedy, corrupt, and genuinely rude sheriff -- now safely dead except in flashbacks.

Well worth catching.
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One of the truly GREAT films...such a shame it's not well-known
Chirofun18 July 2006
I think John Sayles, for the most part, makes great films. This one, in my opinion, is his best. In fact, I think it's a masterpiece. I just got done watching it for the second time (I had to find it on DVD from the LIBRARY of all places...how frustrating that such a great film isn't widely available in video stores), but I have been telling people about this film at every opportunity for about 10 years now. Oh it's not that I feel real cool telling people to go find and see a great film that they've never heard of (although I must admit I do), but more that Mr. Sayles so often gets forgotten as one of the greatest writer/directors ever, and it's such a shame he doesn't get the notoriety he deserves for making such great films. He often uses many of the same actors in his movies, but then again, why shouldn't he...they're always terrific (and by the way, why don't THEY get more notoriety, too?) After all these years, Chris Cooper is finally becoming well known as an excellent actor (and is getting more roles as a result), and as usual, he's tremendous here in playing the lead role. In fact, I've never liked Kris Kristofferson, but he is SUPERB in this film, and I cannot possibly imagine anyone playing the role of Charlie Wade any better. You can get the plot line of this movie from many of the other IMDb comments, but it's not simply the intriguing plot of this movie that makes it so great. It's the way the film is woven and the atmosphere that is created throughout (a John Sayles specialty.) Granted, it IS a character study with general societal overtones, so it may appear "slow" in comparison to big budget special effects action movies, or kick-in-the-groin comedies (our unfortunate obsessions), but if you stick with it for just a bit, you'll find the beautifully crafted tapestry unfolding through the characters with riveting intrigue. It's really a pleasure to watch a film take bits and pieces of many different stories (and with flashbacks mixed in as well) and slowly but surely lead you to the edge of your seat as it ties all the different subplots together until you gradually begin to realize what a GREAT film you're watching and you can't wait to see how it's going to turn out in the end. One of the exceptional things about this film is that just when you thought the ending was quite good, and you got to find out the truth, it turns out that the FINAL closing scene is the REAL payoff, and it's even BETTER than what you THOUGHT would be the ending. I've been telling others to see this outstanding, exceptional film for about 10 years now, and will continue to do so at every opportunity.
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One of Sayles' best
SKG-26 April 1999
John Sayles has often been dismissed as just a "left-wing filmmaker," as if having a point of view automatically meant you had no talent. True, he's made a couple which didn't quite work(BABY, IT'S YOU and EIGHT MEN OUT didn't work, at least for me), but he really is a talented filmmaker. His films are almost always well-scripted, with the same care that goes into great novels(Sayles, of course, started out as a novelist). Every film he makes really feels like it takes place somewhere, as opposed to just having a generic location. His themes are often complex and interesting, and although he may come from a left-wing point of view, he doesn't paint one side as all good and one as all bad; he allows complexity and three dimensions to come in. Finally, he's great with actors.

LONE STAR ranks with my favorite of his work, along with RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN and CITY OF HOPE. Like those films, this is an ensemble film, and like CITY OF HOPE, this is an intimate epic, a balancing act which is difficult to pull off. He also really pays attention to history and how it affects all of us here, not just our personal history but our collective history. It may take place in the context of a murder mystery(which was, admittedly, not hard to figure out), but that's just the starting point of Sayles' canvas. Along with history, it's about family, what binds us together and what divides us, from father to son, mother to daughter, and sibling to sibling. And finally, of course, it's about race, but again, not in the simplistic way of most Hollywood films. What may seem like a cut-and-dried attitude, for example, by Buddy Deeds(Matthew McConaughey) towards his son Sam(played as an adult by Chris Cooper) and Pilar(played as an adult by Elizabeth Pena) going out together, is revealed to be something altogether different.

Cooper brings to mind another Cooper, Gary, with his performance here. As in MATEWAN, another Sayles film, he shows a complex set of emotions hidden behind what seems to be a simple man. Elizabeth Pena, an underused actress, is quite good as Pilar, the schoolteacher caught between her present problems and her past love. I've never been a fan of Kris Kristofferson, but he's quite menacing as Charlie Wade, the crooked sheriff whose past murder drives the present plot. And Sayles regulars like Joe Morton and Stephen Mendillo put in memorable appearances as well. A masterpiece.
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A great movie--one of the best of all time.
ciocio-24 September 2005
LONE STAR is absolutely one of the best movies ever made (and, yes, I am including the great, older classics in that, not just the past few decades' lot). Reading so many excellent reviews of it here kind of gives me hope for humanity and the possible future of civilization (the prospects of both of which seem dire, so much of the time). The richness and depth of this tapestry of stories, characters, themes, emotions, atmospheres--there's just no doing justice to it here, so see it!

I only hope John Sayles will one day reach such heights again. He has made movies of extreme excellence before and since LONE STAR (his worst movies have more worth than most filmmakers' best), but this one is the zenith thus far (well, I haven't seen MATEWAN, about which I've heard raves for years, or SILVER CITY, which was reportedly not top Sayles, but look forward to both of them). The fact that he and his casts and crews achieve such wonders on tiny (in Hollywood terms) budgets, and that he funds them pretty much himself, makes me all the more impressed. I wish him long life, much energy and inspiration, and MANY more movies!

Oh, and the reviewer here who said Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Pena have no chemistry must be numb--the relationship is intense, leading to one of the hottest love scenes in film history.
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One of the best films of the '90s
JustCuriosity17 June 2001
As nearly a perfect as I've seen in the last decade. I'd rank it with Shawshank Redemption as one of the best films made in the 1990s. The script is filled with social issues all flawlessly interconnected. The story lines are linked together around a border town sheriff's investigation of a 40-year-old murder that may have been committed by his own father. There is also a touching romance at the center of the story. But the story touches on racism, interracial relationships, multicultural education, drug use, criminal justice, difficulties between generations, political and police corruption, mental illness, divorce, and illegal immigration.

Sayles is a great director and this is his best work. I also recommend Men with Guns and Limbo which are both outstanding although I'd put them slightly below Lone Star.

The movie is about history and our connections to it. Its also about how boundaries and borders between nations and races are really meaningless and artificial. That is the real theme of the movie and it is presented in numerous fascinating metaphors. The direction and screenwriting is fabulous and the characters seem natural and normal. This is clearly a tribute to Sayles's skills since he also wrote the script. Some of the lines are hilariously unforgettable in the natural way that people really talk. Chris Cooper is terrific as the sheriff. Even Matt McConaughey is believable in flashback scenes as sheriff's late father. Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Pena, and rest of the cast are flawless. Look for Frances McDormand late in the movie in a hilarious cameo as the sheriff's ex-wife.

It is a real shame that this film was nominated for only one Academy Award in screen writing. It lost out to Fargo which is also a very good film, but not as good as Lone Star. It deserved a best picture nomination. I suspect that Sayles will one day be recognized as a great director that he is.
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One of the top movies of all time!
mrcody-7256311 January 2019
This is the first review I've ever written, even though I've been a movie buff for 6 decades. I wanted my first review to be positive, so I am picking one of the best and most overlooked movies ever, Lone Star. It starts slowly but it is so worth it as the subtle plot thickens, comes together, and gains such gravity and complexity that you are stunned (you didn't see this coming or that coming) and must pay attention or you will miss something crucial. Every main character in the film is dealing with ethical and moral dilemmas and it is beautiful to be in the journey with them. Please see this movie!
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"Forget the Alamo"
Quinoa198415 June 2016
Remember when mainstream movies came out and there could be a movie that was primarily for the adults in the room? John Sayles is a filmmaker who appeals to people who like dramas that don't talk down, and don't get into major hysterics in melodrama. This kind of approach to characters and situations that develop naturally, intrigue in a real world where, in the case of Lone Star especially, racism is institutionalized even when it isn't spoken of and history repeats itself in subtle ways, and it may not be for those expecting big action or showdowns with lots of violence. In fact one of the only misleading things about the movie is the poster, which, when I was younger passing by the tape in the store (without, ignorantly of course, looking at the back of the cover) I thought it was some oddball Texas horror movie.

Maybe in its way it is sort of a horror movie, but more about the terror of secrets meant to be buried like the skull and badge of the long-gone Sheriff Wade (Kris Kristofferson) who we see in flashbacks as a mean SOB s***-kicker who didn't take no guff from no one, whether it was his fellow officer (Matthew McConaughey in a small but great role), or a black or a Mexican. It's in this backdrop that the present-day story unfolds as a mix of murder mystery, political scandal and gladhanding, military hiccups, immigration, and interracial romance, with Chris Cooper as the sheriff in present day finding out thing after thing that makes him more disillusioned.

It's easy to say the message of the movie, if it has one, can boil down to "It's all BS and it's bad for ya," but what is so engrossing about Lone Star is how Sayles depicts these people as trying to be good as they can be (the ones we're meant to see as good anyway), and that they have to navigate a lifetime full of discrimination and being apart and being told what to do, whether it's someone who is black or Mexican or a white person trying to be with a Mexican (that too, in its way, is a form of racism). The wounds are so deep that we might as well be skeletons rotting in the sun and it will take a long time, long after those reading this review are gone, to heal.

But the good people of this story, or trying to be good anyway also comes down to point of view, which I found fascinating. I liked very much the scene where the younger black woman soldier is in front of the Colonel played by Joe Morton and she's in real trouble over drugs being found in her test. But there's this dialog between them in this scene that breaks down about why they're even in the military, or what they think they're doing there. It's a supporting plot line and yet it's not padding, it's not something unnecessary, it like many other scenes that show how characters act and react to the world around them can't help but be shaped by the place they're in - Good ol' Boy land Texas - and how they navigate through being a minority in this place.

Acting across the board is solid (even Frances McDormand, who I almost forgot was in the movie by the time she shows up, gets a scene stealer of a performance to give), and the writing is sharp and trusting of its audience that if it takes its time the rewards will be gradual and satisfying. It's got deep messages about how American life, Mexican life too, functions throughout history, with the "Native Americans" also in the background, but it still functions as entertaining drama that gives every character more than a few moments to feel alive and developed. It's assured filmmaking that we don't get to see much at a studio level anymore.
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Great movie
grantss9 June 2015
Great movie.

Even better than expected. Billed as a murder-mystery, it is that, and more. The murder-mystery part is very original and intriguing, and you're kept guessing right to the end.

Around this, writer-director John Sayles spins several human-drama stories, spanning 40 years, each of which deserve a movie of their own. Even the relationships side is not without intrigue, so the whole movie requires you to piece together the puzzle, like a good drama should.

Superb performance by Chris Cooper in the lead role. How he didn't get an Oscar nomination, I don't know. Good support from Elizabeth Pena, Joe Morton and Kris Kristofferson. Matthew McConaughey's character, though crucial to the plot, has very little screen time. Minor appearance from Frances McDormand too.
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A superlative movie, & my all-time favourite!
julian-bedale18 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The sad news of Elizabeth Pena's death earlier this week (on 14.10.14) aged only 55 prompted me to watch the DVD of this superb movie again.

The action takes place over 6 days commencing on a Tuesday morning with the discovery of a skeleton in an abandoned rifle range outside the border town of Frontera, Texas. This brings the mystery of the sudden, unexplained disappearance 40 years earlier of the town's bullying, psychopath Sheriff, Charlie Wade (played with great menace by Kris Kristofferson - there was a collective intake of breath amongst the cinema audience every time he came on screen when I first saw the film here in London in 1996!), back to the fore amongst the older residents of Frontera.

Chiefly concerned is the current Sheriff, Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) whose father (& long-term predecessor as Sheriff) Buddy had long been suspected of murdering Wade. The twists and turns of the plot as Sam talks to people who had known his two predecessors in the town & across the border in Mexico are gradually skilfully tied together. During these few days, Sam also re-kindles his romance with his high school sweetheart Pilar (played with understated elegance by Elizabeth Pena), which Buddy had forcibly ended 23 years earlier.

Mr Sayles also uses a "tracking" technique several times in the film to great effect by switching from events happening now to those taking place in the past, using exactly the same locations.

A couple of slight carps - the character of young Hollis (Buddy Deeds' co Deputy Sheriff to Charlie Wade 40 years earlier) is very under-developed, so he unfortunately comes across as a complete nonentity, & the two characters of Wesley Birdsong (Gordon Tootoosis) & Bunny, Sam's "tightly wound" ex-wife (an electrifying 5 minute performance by Frances McDormand) each appear out of the blue 3/4 of the way through the film with very little connection to the action up to that point - but, between them, manage to provide the final clues to enable Sam to solve the murder mystery!

These are very minor criticisms in what is a beautifully shot & acted, enthralling murder mystery, which also shows how people of different cultures manage to co-exist astride the US - Mexico border. This was the first John Sayles movies I ever saw, & remains his finest, although all his other 17 films are very well worth seeing as well.
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