Carice van Houten

The western 'Brimstone's' depiction of hell on Earth is a trial in itself

The western 'Brimstone's' depiction of hell on Earth is a trial in itself

With “Brimstone,” a story of innocence and evil in the Wild West, filmmaker Martin Koolhoven has created a kind of endurance test. It’s not a matter of the movie’s length — even at 2½ hours, the handsomely shot drama is well-structured and moves with assurance. The American frontier’s raw beauty pulses with mystery and dread, and before the harrowing tale finally repels us, it draws us in with the powerfully expressive face of Dakota Fanning, as a mute midwife, hunted and hyper-alert.

But whatever the writer-director may have set out to say about this resourceful survivor or the plight of women in brutally benighted times, in the end, he seems more intent on putting the...

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