Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren raised the Yellowstone franchise | Daily News Byte

Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren raised the Yellowstone franchise

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James Badge Dale as John Dutton Sr.  and Harrison Ford as Jacob Dutton in 1923

James Badge Dale as John Dutton Sr. and Harrison Ford as Jacob Dutton in 1923

1923, the latest Paramount+ drama from prolific producer and writer Taylor Sheridan, is not your average spinoff. For starters, the second Yellowstone The prequel features two of the most honored and decorated actors of their generation: Harrison Ford (in her TV debut) and Helen Mirren (in a rare return to the small screen for a woman). And while critics were only given the pilot to screen for review, it soon became clear that Ford and Mirren, who previously co-starred as a couple in The Mosquito Coaststill shares a magnetic screen presence that can increase 1923 beyond another overwrought Western.

Set four decades after the events of 1883the limited series that chronicled the Dutton family’s difficult journey to the land that eventually became the Yellowstone Ranch, 1923 found the now thriving ranch under the control of Jacob Dutton (Ford), the older brother of James (Tim McGraw from 1883), and Jacob’s Irish wife, Cora (Mirren). After arriving in 1894, Jacob and possibly Cora begin raising James’ sons, John (James Badge Dale) and Spencer (Brandon Sklenar), as their own. John now has a grown son, Jack (Darren Mann), who is eager to carry on the Duttons’ nurturing legacy—even if it means delaying his marriage to the more prim-and -proper Elizabeth Strafford (Michelle Randolph), who may not exist. fully aware of what was involved in marrying a cowboy, for a cattle drive.

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But, to be honest Yellowstone style, regardless of the year, the Duttons face threats on many fronts. And as Isabel May, who is the star 1883says an early voiceover in 1923, “Violence has always haunted this family.” Following the chaos of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic, the characters are forced to contend with prohibition, cow disease, the rise of locusts, and the economic conditions of the looming Great Depression. However, central to the story of the new Duttons in Montana is the drought that has led to a shortage of grass for grazing, causing a growing sense of competition and resentment between the cowboys and the town’s herdsmen. With his piercing eyes and thinly veiled menace, Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn), a cantankerous Scot who leads a group of local sheepherders and has a specific vendetta against the Duttons, makes it clear that he will be one of many familiar foes for the Duttons to contend with. (Timothy Dalton, the former James Bond, will also play a villain, but he will not appear in the first episode.)

While Jacob gathers livestock and conducts business in town as a livestock commissioner, Cara, despite her final years, continues to tend the homestead and enjoy the quiet freedom that comes with it. her at the ranch without her husband—something she reminds Elizabeth of in an attempt to keep the peace between her and Jack. (But make no mistake: Cara knows how to fire a double barrel shotgun when she needs to protect her family.)

1923 | Official Trailer | Paramount+

No stranger to iconic action heroes, Ford cuts a naturally imposing and menacing figure as a classic cowboy, although his character’s stern expression seems stuck in a perpetual scowl except when he’s with his wife. In contrast, Cora feels more dynamic and emotionally accessible, with Mirren tapping into the quiet personality and strength of the matriarch. Because of its leads, 1923 plays more interestingly as a family drama and would only benefit from a deeper exploration of Jacob and Cora’s shared history as partners. Together, Ford and Mirren’s good-natured repartee even helps add a few moments of levity to a slow, tense hour that tries to juggle two other storylines that aren’t necessarily connected to the ranch but are arguably more compelling than fights over land rights. .

A world away, Spencer, Jacob and Cora’s war veteran nephew, have earned a reputation as a marksman of sorts who hunt dangerous big cats that threaten the lives of villagers and travelers in Africa. Traumatized by his experiences on the battlefield, presented in a long and graphic descriptive flashback 1923Spencer’s inherent cinematic quality, Spencer decides not to return home to Montana in favor of searching for parts of herself lost in the Great War. Sklenar bears such a striking resemblance to Ford that, at first glance, one might think Sklenar is playing Jacob in a flashback. As a ruggedly handsome safari hunter, Sklenar commands the screen by playing one of the most immediately compelling characters on the show.

Sheridan did not shy away from the historical mistreatment of Natives, but he took that theme a step further in 1923 with the introduction of Teonna Rainwater (an excellent Aminah Nieves), a strong-willed young woman who is about to reach her breaking point and is forced to enter one of the scariest residential schools of the time. When she fights back, Teonna faces the wrath of her sadistic nun teacher, Sister Mary (a terrifying Jennifer Ehle), and a slightly more compassionate but crueler headmaster, Father Renaud (a menacing Sebastian Roché). , which has its own evil ways. of asserting his power over other women.

Sheridan continues to walk a very fine line between exposing the killing and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in history and falling into sentimental exploitation. While it remains necessary to portray this difficult part of American history, these school scenes are so unsettling and uncomfortable to watch—so much so that they feel like another show altogether—and the unflinching depiction of this violence may run the risk of being gratuitous. It’s still not clear from the first episode how all the storylines will inevitably converge, or if all the storylines will work in the first place, but if executed correctly, Sheridan’s prequel could be a worthy star vehicle for its vast group.

1923 premieres December 18 on Paramount+.

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