Rent Heaven's Gate (1980)

3.3 of 5 from 99 ratings
3h 27min
Rent Heaven's Gate Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
  • General info
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Synopsis:
Based on the infamous Johnson County War of 1892, Michael Cimino's epic western is now hailed as a masterpiece of American cinema and is presented here in its newly restored and definitive director's cut. Harvard graduate James Averill has returned to Wyoming as a Marshall and is facing a county with growing divisions and escalating tensions. The powerful, government-backed cattle barons are waging war on the immigrant settlers they brand 'thieves and anarchists' and are drawing up a 'death list' for their hired mercenaries to act upon. As hostilities mount, the inevitability of a full-scale and bloody war edges ever closer.
Actors:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Stefan Shcherby, , , ,
Directors:
Producers:
Joann Carelli
Writers:
Michael Cimino
Others:
Tambi Larsen, Jim Berkey
Studio:
Second Sight
Genres:
Action & Adventure, Classics, Drama
BBFC:
Release Date:
25/11/2013
Run Time:
207 minutes
Languages:
English
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Formats:
Pal
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.40:1
Colour:
Colour
Bonus:
  • 'True Gate': An Interview with Jeff Bridges
  • 'Painting Jackson County': An Interview with Vilmos Zsigmond
  • 'Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate': DVD Release Version
Disc 1:
This disc includes the main feature
Disc 2:
This disc includes:
- Special Features
BBFC:
Release Date:
25/11/2013
Run Time:
216 minutes
Languages:
English
Subtitles:
None
Formats:
Pal
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.40:1
Colour:
Colour
BLU-RAY Regions:
B
Bonus:
  • 'True Gate' An Interview with Jeff Bridges
  • 'Painting Jackson County' An Interview with Vilmos Zsigmond
  • 'Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of 'Heaven's Gate': DVD Release Version
Disc 1:
This disc includes the main feature
Disc 2:
This disc includes the Bonus Features

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Reviews (6) of Heaven's Gate

Worth seeing for curiosity value - but it's a turkey - Heaven's Gate review by RP

Spoiler Alert
13/06/2012

After directing the highly successful and admired Vietnam war film 'The Deer Hunter' Michael Cimino went on to direct what was at the time the most expensive film ever made, the epic western 'Heaven's Gate'. When it was first shown it was critically panned, then re-edited down to a shorter version, but when released it was a major box office failure. It is credited with causing the bankruptcy of the film company United Artists and is cited as not only one of the most expensive but also one of the worst films ever made.

The major characters are played by well known actors including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt - so surely it can't be all bad, can it?

Intrigued, I sought out a copy to see for myself - and hit the first hurdle. It's quite hard to track down a complete copy: the most complete version has a running time of 219 minutes and I eventually bought a copy from the Amazon Germany site that has a running time of 210 minutes, the PAL DVD equivalent of the film length.

The story is based on the so-called Johnson County War, a range war that took place in Wyoming in 1892 between settlers and larger established ranchers and culminated in a shootout between the small ranchers, gunmen hired by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), and a sheriff's posse, eventually requiring the intervention of the Cavalry on the orders of US President.

It's a drama, so don't expect historical accuracy. The small settlers are portrayed as immigrants, almost entirely from eastern Europe and there is much speaking of Serbo-Croat etc - but this dialogue isn't subtitled, so a thumbs down for that. The film opens at a Harvard graduation celebration which introduces the principal character Jim Averill (played by Kris Kristofferson) and also Billy Irvine (played by John Hurt, who looks very elderly for a new graduate!). The street scenes were filmed in Oxford, and there are plenty of recognisable locations.

The film then moves out West, where Irvine is somehow involved with the WSGA who are recruiting gunmen to hunt down and kill 125 named settlers. Averill is romantically involved with Ella Watson (played by Isabelle Huppert) who runs a brothel. Nate Champion (played by Christopher Walken) is a gunman who works for the WSGA, but is also a friend of Averill and a rival for the affections of Ella Watson. It also turns out that Ella's name is on the list to be eliminated. Confused? You will be...

After assorted long drawn out scenes, the film climaxes in a lengthy and bloody battle sequence as Averill leads the settlers using almost medieval-style siege machines into battle against the hired gunmen. Just about everyone dies - and that's it, apart from an ambiguous ending on rich-man Averill's yacht which shows him with his Harvard sweetheart.

So that's the story - but what's the film really like? Is it a turkey? Is it a stinker? Well, it's certainly over-long and somewhat disjointed, but the bustling western townscape scenes are well realised and it is very prettily photographed. But I never felt any empathy for the characters who all seemed unrealistic, and the battle climax also seemed unrealistic, sort of like an old-fashioned Western where encircled wagons are surrounded by wheeling Red Indians - only here it's the baddies being encircled by the immigrant settler goodies. And the characterisation of a goody goody Jim Averill falling for a goody goody local whore is all very silly stuff. Kris Kristopherson may be a good songwriter, and perhaps even a good country singer, but he is certainly a wooden actor.

Whatever the director's intentions, this lengthy film is over complex, the characters and the story confusing, the acting stilted. So yes, it's a turkey, I can't recommend it - but I have seen worse. It's worth seeing for curiosity value - or am I missing something? Unfortunately life is too short to watch a 3½ hour film again to find out. 2/5 stars.

3 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

Not worth seeing for curiosity value - it's still a turkey - Heaven's Gate review by RS

Spoiler Alert
11/07/2016

I don't mind slow paced films, but Heaven's Gate is a glacially slow, self-indulgent, director's folly. The impressive cinematography and production design cannot make up for the dull acting, mediocre characters and weak plot. This film was critically panned on release and bombed at the box office for a very good reason. This is three hours and twenty-seven minutes of your life that you will never get back.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Boringly slow and no subtitles - Heaven's Gate review by Bill

Spoiler Alert
24/08/2016

the acting was dull, the characters were dull, the story could have been good with an inspiring director but it was very very disappointing, and if your hearing is even slightly below par you will miss most of the mumbled conversation, or maybe it is just a poor soundtrack.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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