The Mustang, rated R
The Mustang is a well-made film about an angry and violent prisoner and his relationship with what was believed to be an unbreakable wild mustang. The film is directed by French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre in her feature film directorial debut, and is based on her 2014 short film Rabbit. She co-wrote the film with Mona Eastvold and Brock Norman Brock. Robert Redford was an executive producer for the film.
We are told that more than 100,000 wild horses roam across ten states in the U.S. A small percentage of the horses are taken to prisons in six states each year for training by inmates in an effort to get them ready for auction, in a program sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts plays Roman Coleman. Roman is an angry, violent prisoner with a short fuse. He has a shaved head, is a physically powerful man, and one of few words. Roman tells the prison psychologist, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Connie Britton (Nashville, Dirty John), that he’s not good with people. After 12 years in a maximum-security prison in Nevada, Roman is transferred to the general population and assigned to outdoor maintenance, shoveling horse manure. As he is doing his work, he hears a mustang violently kicking the walls of a small stall and considered untrainable. He foolishly opens the stall door, only to be told by Myles, played by two-time Oscar nominee, 82-year-old Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Coming Home), who runs the program, that he could have been injured badly by the horse. Shortly, Myles brings Roman into the program and assigns him to the horse that Roman names Marquis ( but pronounces it as Marcus). Henry, played by Jason Mitchell (Detroit, Mudbound, Straight Outta Compton), is an inmate that has been in the program for a while, and considered to be the best horse trainer. He mentors Roman on how to work with the horses, but Roman’s anger gets the best of him again and he is soon back in solitary confinement. When Roman helps to get the horses brought into safety before a thunderstorm, he earns another chance in the program. Will Roman be able to break Marquis? The comparison between the two is obvious, a wild horse and a violent prisoner. Roman has just four weeks to get Marquis ready before the auction.
Gideon Adlon (Blockers), plays Martha, Roman’s estranged and pregnant daughter. The scenes between the two are tense and difficult to watch. There is much hurt that has taken place since Roman badly beat Martha’s mother, landing him in prison. There is also a drug smuggling plotline that has been included in the film that, doesn’t add much to the overall storyline. Most of the cast are not professional actors, but actual prisoners from a prison horse training program. The cinematography (mountains, plains, skies, horses), by Ruben Impens (Beautiful Boy) is beautiful.
Content concerns include a large amount of adult language and some violence. Themes in the film include a father/daughter relationship, drugs, prison life, second chances, regret, self-sabotage, healing, freedom and confinement and regret.
The Mustang is a well-made and acted film about a prison horse training program that includes an unnecessary side plot about drugs, but shows how the love between humans and horses can bring healing. Matthias Schoenaerts is excellent in the lead role of Roman Coleman. The film is beautifully shot and has some content concerns (language, violence).