It's a Long Way to Ogalalla
Originally released as a mini-series of 4 episodes "Lonesome Dove" can be watched as a movie, at almost 6 and a half hours a very long movie but trust me if you think you can watch it a bit at a time you probably wont because it is so compelling. Not only that once the final credits roll you will feel the urge to watch it again because this western draws you into the story, the characters and friendships so that by the end you feel the emotion which you see in the characters and feel like you have been part of the story. The irony of this is that "Lonesome Dove" doesn't really have anything new; we have a cattle drive, we have old friends, we have romance, Indian trouble and a heck of a lot more familiar western elements. But the writing is spot on, the directing is perfect, the acting is brilliant and the fact it doesn't always pander to western expectations delivering surprises including deaths makes it more entertaining.
To try and write a synopsis for "Lonesome Dove" is to be honest futile because here is a mini-series/ movie with a running length of 384 minutes and a lot happens in those almost 6 and a half hours. But what we have is simply a cattle drive where two former rangers and their men decide to drive cattle to Montana to set up ranch and along the way there are various issues from betrayal to Indian trouble as well as romance and the cajoling of friends. There is also a Sheriff looking for his man and looking for his wife.
Now that probably doesn't make "Lonesome Dove" seem that special and probably with it running to over 6 hours may make it sound drawn out but it is anything of the sort. This is a movie which crams a lot in a bit like a combination of the cattle drive from "Red River" with the friendship in "The Cheyenne Social Club" plus the multiple story elements of "How the West Was Won". But because it is over 6 hours it also has time to breathe, create characters and build these storylines so that when they do come together it is believable and draws you in to what is going on.
It is because of this that every single character in "Lonesome Dove" is more than one dimension be it the main characters such as Gus, Woodrow, Lorena or Dish to those with lesser parts such as Roscoe Brown and Janey who he meets in the woods. This means that every actor has a character to get into and it makes it first rate be it the friendship of Gus & Woodrow to how Gus feels about Lorena. As such "Lonesome Dove" also has some fantastic performances with Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Lane and Ricky Schroder leading the movie in such a way that by the time the movie is over you feel a connection with all of them.
Here is the thing, now "Lonesome Dove" has its moments of prettiness with some fantastic skylines and to be honest Diane Lane as Lorena. But it equally has its share of ugly looking places, run down dusty towns, muddy countryside and some suggestively disturbing scenes from burning bodies to rape. And that is what makes this mini-series/ movie so special because it manages to break free from the tethers of the expected to deliver elements which are unusual. Take those who die because this is a movie which plenty of surprises when it comes to those who die and how it makes you pay attention, makes you connect and makes you feel something.
What this all boils down to is that "Lonesome Dove" is something very special whether you call it a mini-series or movie. It is almost faultless and despite being over 6 hours it becomes so compelling that you will feel an immediate desire to watch it again.