David Wenham (of the Lord Of The RingsTrilogy) and Joseph Fiennes (of Enemy At The Gates play two brothers, Luke and Elijah respectively in the early days of the settling of the Western United States.
When a common street thug who goes by the name of Edge breaks into the apartment of an old woman he refers to as 'Prune,' she knocks him out and starts telling him a story about the two cowboys. He's uninterested at first, but when she's taken away to the hospital he continues to sneak in to visit her to find out the rest of the story. As it turns out, she knows the location of a sizable amount of gold that the pair of cowboys were involved with, and Edge owes quite a bit of money to some people who you don't necessarily want to owe money to.
As Prune relates her story to Edge, the movie shifts back and forth from the Wild West to the wilds of Europe of that period and we find out that Elijah and Luke's relationship took a turn for the dysfunctional when they both fell for the same woman – a French immigrant working at a whorehouse named Lilith.
Things of course get more complicated when Elijah marries her. Luke ends up living in Europe for a while and getting involved with a tribe in Macedonia and it's here where the film really starts to get interesting as his American presence stands out in stark contrast to the natives with whom he has to deal with as they go to war with the invading Turkish forces.
Ultimately you know that Luke and Elijah are going to have to face their inner demons as well as each other, and it's interesting how the director (Milcho Manchevski) works that conflict into the story taking place in the present day between Edge and Prunce.
Dust is an interesting film in that it deftly blends some scenes of brutal violence with some contrasting scenes of great beauty. The movie is very pleasing to the eye and is shot in such a manner that even during the slower parts of the film, your eyes will still be kept interested in what happens on screen, particularly the scenes that take place in Europe where the scenery and backgrounds are quite breathtaking.
The filmmakers pull both the period story and the modern day story together very nicely, juxtaposing each part with skill and ultimately tying up the themes of redemption and enlightenment in a satisfying and mysterious package.
But Western fans, don't let that disillusion you – there are still plenty of shoot outs in here that would have given Peckinpah a run for his money in the on screen carnage category. The bullet play in this movie is as relentless as it is ugly. Don't expect John Woo style bullet ballet here, cause it's nowhere to be scene. When people die, they go down fast and hard. No one is jumping sideways through the air with twin .45s blaring.
Overall, Dust is a pretty interesting film. It's weird, it's touching, it's bloody and it's violent. It almost transcends genre classification at times and makes you think, but at the same time offers enough action and suspense to keep even the most jaded viewer interested. I can't see it appealing to a larger audience but those who do get a chance to check it out would do well to go in with an open mind.
Dust is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78.1 and is enhanced for 16x9 sets. The transfer is quite nice with bold colors when called for and more subtle hues when necessary. It also transitions nicely from black and white in a few scenes and then reverts back to color for the rest of the movie. There is a mild amount of grain in some of the darker scenes that is harder to spot during the lighter ones, but it's nothing to really complain to loudly about and overall this is quite a nice looking job.
This DVD contains a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with decent levels and nice channel separation throughout the duration of the film. The dialogue is nice and clear and easy to follow and the score is balanced well against the speaking characters and against the sound effects. There is one annoying factor to consider though, and that is the subtitles. You have the option to have them either on or off. Most of the movie is in English but there are big chunks of it that are not and when these scenes occur, you'll find yourself reaching for the remote to turn the subs on. It would have been nice to have them come on automatically during these scenes, but that doesn't happen and if you forget to turn them on, you'll find yourself rewinding to watch parts over again, or missing sections.
The one and only real supplement on the DVD is a behind the scenes/making of featurette that has some interviews with the cast and crew members. This runs just shy of seven minutes in length and while it's nice to hear them speak about the movie, it's not really long enough to go too in depth and it actually leaves you wanting a little bit more information. Too much ground is left uncovered and when you think about the amount of interesting themes and ideas that are toyed with in the feature, this bland and short piece is a little disappointing. A pair of trailers for other Lions Gate releases are hidden on the disc as an Easter Egg.
Dust is definitely not a movie for everyone and it's pretty far from your typical western but it is worth a look if you like your cinema a little more challenging. Lions Gate have done a nice job on the disc, even if there isn't much in the way of extra features.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.