An Ivy League drop-out travels to the Colorado wilderness, where he joins a team of buffalo hunters on a journey that puts his life and sanity at risk. Based on the highly acclaimed novel by John Williams.
Gabe Polsky’s adaptation of John Williams’ novel is driven by a fierce performance by Nicolas Cage as an Ahab-like hunter who’s intent on wiping out a herd of buffalo in a remote Colorado valley. Financed by a Eastern greenhorn named Andrews (Fred Hechinger) who wants to experience the real West, Miller (Cage) takes him to a hidden place he stumbled upon years before, where he claims thousands of bison exist. Seeing cash on the hoof, he intends to kill as many of them as possible and take their hides – with the help of the skinner Schneider (Jeremy Bobb) – to sell in a seemingly insatiable lucrative market.
This simple expedition becomes a descent into madness as Miller’s need to destroy drives him to the brink of insanity while Andrews gets far more than he bargained for, seeing measures of depravity he didn’t think men were capable of.
Polsky modulates the story with a sure hand, resisting the urge to rush the story, allowing the viewer to witness the effect abandoning civilization for the wilderness has on Andrews and Miller, the former coming to regret his decision, the latter reveling in the barbaric nature of life he’s allowed to assume. The film benefits greatly from location shooting, as well as Cage’s performance, an intense turn that never jumps the rails, providing the movie with a sense of realism and tragedy that effectively drives home the story’s theme of obsession.