Thunderbolt And Lightfoot - Blu-ray Review

'Thunderbolt And Lightfoot does evidence some of the visual dexterity Cimino shows elsewhere. There is a patience to his camerawork and framing that many 1970s directors didn't even consider'

'Clint Eastwood's best non-Western film', runs a quotation being used to promote the new Blu-ray release of Thunderbolt And Lightfoot, a lofty claim if ever there was one. To live up to that sort of ranking Michael Cimino's film, his first, has got to best the likes of the acclaimed Dirty Harry and personal favourites like Kelly's Heroes and Where Eagles Dare.

Do a quick search around the web for cyber space's collective opinion on Clint's best films though and you will find a pocket of support for it, though its more natural place seems to be in the 'honourable mentions' category, where it appears on Stand By For Mind Control, whose excellent piece does a good job of explaining some of the context.

As per that entry and several others, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot does feature a range of reasons to justify seeking it out, even if the film isn't quite up there with some of Eastwood's best work. Cimino is certainly one. A Hollywood enigma, Cimino feels like he is just about starting the process of a critical reassessment of his work outside of The Deer Hunter, with increasingly positive words being said about Heaven's Gate, his third film and the one which essentially ruined him in Hollywood. Whilst lacking the thematic depth of that picture, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot does evidence some of the visual dexterity Cimino shows elsewhere. There is a patience to his camerawork and framing that many 1970s directors didn't even consider, let alone try to ape.

Cimino's framing and some good work individually by Jeff Bridges and Clint make Thunderbolt And Lightfoot a film of moments, rather than a whole worthwhile savouring. The opening church attack, with a near-silent priestly Thunderbolt (Eastwoood) and Lightfoot's (Bridges) separate pilfering of a car, in a way typify the film: apart Bridges and Eastwood do good work, in very different scenes that individually could be the setups for great films; together they hardly ever feel like they're doing the same thing, in the same film.

For Eastwood, this seems to be a straight Heist film and he plays it as such, keeping things low and quiet, muttering gritty lines and generally being Clint. Bridges seems to think, and to be directed as if, he is in a buddy comedy, cloyingly latching on to Thunderbolt like a needy child. Later on, Clint gets a big gun, whilst Bridges dresses in drag.

Even more bizarrely is the fact that, at the end, Cimino seems to realise which of the two needed to disappear, but only then follows through on that decision during the final shot, another miss-judged moment in a film full of them, not that the quality of all involved doesn't shine through too.




Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is out on new UK Blu-ray from Monday 23rd June 2014.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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