1972, Sydney Pollack, 116 mins.
A mountain man becomes a legendary Indian fighter.
Robert Redford’s iconic presence dominates Sydney Pollack’s Jeremiah Johnson, a mountain-man Western, and adds immeasurably to its success. Johnson is a man of few words and only an actor with Redford’s charisma could carry off this decidedly oblique character. The narrative, told against the backdrop of epic vistas, proceeds largely through encounters with Indians and various eccentrics, including the great Will Geer as an old-timer. John Milius wrote the screenplay for the film and although it was revised, it still contains numerous Milius touches – notably the nature of myth and the primal need for man to prove himself against nature. The attitude to the Indians is ambiguous and this was apparently deliberate on the part of the filmmakers. Sometimes the film becomes sentimental, particularly in the scenes with the squaw wife, but on the whole it’s compelling, entertaining and memorable.