The Conservative Critic
Can The English make a good American western?
The English is a limited series on Prime featuring Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) about an english woman who is on a path of revenge in Midwestern America circa 1870-something. Her path entangles her with a Pawnee veteran with a complicated past of his own.
The English got decent but mixed reviews from both critics and audiences thus far but I am a sucker for a western. The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: The English
Overall Rating: Very Good
The English is a fantastic series which carefully balances beautiful landscapes, emotional grit, and white knuckle action sequences with a ghoulish flare. Its the Wednesday Adams of the western genre. From its heavy hitting talent to it’s genre celebrating cinematography, The English is a masterpiece definitely worthy of watching even with the slight liberalism.
Is it entertaining?
The English starts with a bang and never stops. Heroine Cornelia Locke played by Blunt and hero Eli Whipp played by Chaske Spencer (Twilight) cannot catch a single break and they make a formidable and deadly team facing bad guy after bad guy each worse than the last. True to a western, a lot of fights are personal and there is plenty of sharp shooting both of bows and guns. This six episode series is an easy binge for any weekend.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Full disclosure: I am an absolute sucker for a modern western. Westerns tend to lean on big sweeping visuals and high tension plot lines. Love them. So I may have a bit of a bias on the rating.
There was not a place in the crafting of The English where I thought there was a miss. The acting, the storyline, the cinematography, the twists all worked together for a comprehensively well created piece. A true masterpiece.
The emotional and physical range of Blunt never ceases to amaze me. She can do comedy, she can do tragedy, she can believably kick butt and she was no different in The English. As a grieving woman filled with rage, viewers will believe every second of her journey across the American plains. Spencer also puts in a strong showing carefully balancing the stereotypical stoicism of American indigenous people depicted in Westerns with honesty and integrity to the emotional motivations of his character. The film also featured a bone chilling performance by Game of Thrones veteran Ciaran Hinds as baddie Richard Watts and Valerie Pachner (The Kingsman) gives us someone to root for even in her small role.
The cinematography was to die for. The film had to be shot in Spain due to issues with COVID rules in Kansas where the film is set but as a former Kansan, I thought Spain did pretty well looking like the plains. Primarily, Director Hugh Blick understood the key to capturing the sweeping Kansas ora is the big skies.
The story was also extremely satisfying. Unlike other brilliantly crafted western series like 1883 (the prequel to Yellowstone), The English leaves the viewer with hope.
While sticking to the western tradition, Blick also managed something extremely special with his story. There is something particularly spooky about his bad guys who have all suffered heinous traumas which have turned them deep black. There’s a sort of carnival effect about it and it gives the series a special something others don’t have.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: A little
There was some push and pull with the political narrative. On the one hand, there is some inclusion of unusually accurate narratives on inter-tribal politics and war, particularly those of the late 1800s. Liberals would have you believe it was always just bad bad white men versus all the indigenous peoples but a lot of blood shed came from all different parties with different tribal loyalties. And the fighting on all sides was absolutely brutal. The English allows for this truth.
However, ultimately, the narrative ends up being basically: America in the 1870s was a cold, heartless place full of only murderers, rapists and thieves. And it really pushes the agenda that land conquered by America’s founding fathers and western expansionists was “stolen” even though there were wars fought for it. The idea of “stolen” land has always thrown me when war is waged. You win or you lose the land. It’s not pretty but that is how the literal entire world was founded and borders drawn. It’s not unique to America. But liberals would have you think it’s the worst possible thing that ever happened in human history and not a natural progression of societal growth. Its also pretty hard on men generally.
So weighing the balance there are some great conservative themes and some more rare truthful ideas but slightly more on the liberal side.
The English is a great series with a stellar cast, gorgeous views and only a little liberalism that’s easy to get past. A good binge for Holiday travel.