Heaven's Gate Review

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Across 30 years of life in Johnson County, Wyoming, cattle empires are built and lost, rustlers marked for death, and comfort provided by bordello madam Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert).


If there were polls anointing the most written-about but least-seen films of all time, Heaven’s Gate might well come out on top. In depicting the Johnson County War of 1892 (immigrants versus cattle barons), Michael Cimino delivers soaring ambition and scale, but always syringed with a deep sense of regret. Essential for its set-pieces (a roller-skating dance, the final battle), young incarnations of big stars (Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges), intelligent view of American history, Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and because, in a post-CG world, you will never see its like again.

A studio fell and Michael Cimino's career never recovered but Heaven's Gate lives on as a landmark Western.