One thing we don’t see any more in film is the popularity and production of epic films.
What I mean by this is what an “epic” classically stands for — a work of fact or fiction that covers either an expansive period of time or a long journey with many happenings. No matter the ultimate definition of an epic, one thing is certain, the runtime of the film is often quite long.
To be exact, the runtime of the film “Giant” is three hours and 21 minutes. To me, however, the time flies by.
What I love about epics, and specifically what I love about “Giant,” is the film’s ability to tell a story in its entirety.
Like reading “Romeo and Juliet” or “Julius Caesar,” the story covers so many different things making it next to impossible to follow all of the characters and plot points if the story is rushed.
This allows “Giant” to explore complex dynamic character development over the course of the film, where we see the embodiment of old Texas money and nobility through Rock Hudson’s Bick Benedict, as well as the visage of a more titanic and powerful Texan wealth found in the oil industry with James Dean’s Jett Rink.
But unlike the Montagues and Capulets of “Romeo and Juliet,” or the “Ides of March” which Caesar did not acknowledge the existence of in “Julius Caesar,” this is no melodrama.
This is Texas — a place where even the armadillos and tumbleweeds are outfitted with cowboy hats, boots and spurs.
The feuds are deep, brooding and strong. The tempers may run high, but no one loses their cool. At least, no one loses their cool without serious repercussions.
One of the gorgeous parts of “Giant,” is being able to witness these nuanced Texas high-society relationships and the inner workings of the families which rule over the “Lone Star State.”
In the film there are pomp and circumstance, there are standards of conversation and appearance set upon those within these old money families, such as that of the Benedicts, and we are given front row seats to it all.
Ultimately, that is also the crutch and hindrance of their power — the expectations upholding old ideals such as honor and fair business dealings.
This allows for characters like Dean’s Jett to become more powerful, as their jackal-like personas rip flesh slowly but surely away from fat pedigreed cattle like the Benedicts. The jackal may be kicked and break a few ribs, but slowly the fat cattle is weakened until it can no longer stand and fight. That’s when the jackal goes in for the kill and becomes the new king.
In “Giant,” we see that battle of old versus new. That fight of honor versus pragmatism. We can see the ferocity even in the movie’s transactions.
With all of that set against the beautiful orange hues of the Texan deserts, it is hard not to have your eyes glued to the screen for the entire three and a half hours of the film.
That being said, this film knows that it’s beautiful.
Because of that, it teases the audience with breathtaking shots of the scenery, while also being sure not to inundate them with the land.
While “Giant” certainly could have gotten away with more shots of the landscape, and essentially could have made the land a character within the film itself, such as what Sergio Leone did with the west in “Once Upon a Time in The West.”
However, that would have taken away from the characters and deeper story in the “Giant,” which is what makes “Giant” one of the most complete and best films I have ever seen. The film balances everything perfectly, while also making sure to present an enthralling story with intriguing and captivating
characters. The film also is filled with many social commentary pieces revolutionary for the time that challenged the status quo.
This film is what a great story looks, feels and sounds like.
Making “Giant” was an even larger feat and accomplishment in cinema than its name implies.
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