One of my favorite films of all time is the acclaimed masterpiece The Wild Bunch by director, Sam Peckinpah. It’s affectionately been described as “aging outlaws running out of banks to rob and badlands to ride.”
It sports a veteran cast starring William Holden, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’brien and Ernest Borgnine. The dialogue is coarse and brilliant, its western vistas breathtaking, and Peckinpah was the first to employ slow motion bullet-hit photography.
But what impresses me the most are the multiple themes layered into the script. First and foremost, it highlights the comradeship between men whose time is quickly running out. Taking place when the automobile is being first introduced into the Old West, William Holden’s character remarks, “We have to start thinking beyond our guns. Those days are closing fast.”
Another theme expressed in graphic intensity exposes the effect of violence on a town as well on its children some of whom get aroused by it.
Yet another theme tests what it means to give your word and who you give your word to.
And finally, it showcases changing alliances where once former enemies become your allies.
- More articles by Steve Kaire
- Behind the Lines with DR: The Handshake with Sam Peckinpah
- Specs & The City: Story Theme and ‘Road to Perdition‘
Get invaluable advice on theme in Dara Mark’s book
Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc