65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2005
Only Robert Redford's 2nd directorial effort, this film is purely from the heart. This is a true ensemble piece, worthy of Altman, and Redford's love of the land is quite appropriate. I was most impressed with the fact that this film is about Mexican/Native American types, and found no need for sex, drugs, blood or real violence (that stuff seems to prevail when regarding cultural differences). How refreshing. Foremost is the fact that this has a whimsical element of fantasy, and a quasi David/Goliath subtext. I was especially amused when the old man was playing chess with the Angel (a bit of Bergman, perhaps?). Aside from the gorgeous vistas of New Mexico, beautifully photographed, it is Dave Grusin's Oscar-winning score that is most intriguing (it's ONLY Oscar nomination). The lovely guitar of Angel Romero is prevalent throughout, adding to Grusin's 5/8 time with endless modulations, suggesting that this is a land that will go on forever. The acting is wonderful, without exception. The previous reviewers have all failed to mention how strong Chick Vennera was in the lead role. So very handsome, and so un-self-conscious. A wonderful performance. If there would be a second lead, it would have to be Carlos Riquelme as the old geezer that everyone thinks is nuts, but actually talks to Angels. Sonia Braga, John Heard, Daniel Stern, Nancy Mandragon, and especially, James Gammon, were all solid. I love this film a lot, because it really makes me feel good. And that music...it stays with you. Quite haunting. I recommend this film for families; no matter how poor you might be, financially, standing up for yourself and your integrity can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2004
After his well-known, Academy Award-winning success with ORDINARY PEOPLE, Robert Redford directed the unheralded MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR, a tale that speaks of the importance of the basics of life versus the onset of supposed progress, materialism and pride.
A small farmer makes the mistake of using water that isn't his to use in order to cultivate a parched and unproductive beanfield. Sonia Braga (STREETS OF LAREDO) stars as a mechanic in the farmer's New Mexico pueblo who supports the farmer and joins the "war" against the real estate developer who cares about nothing but himself and his profits. Ultimately the townspeople and the developers square off. You'll love the "hombre angel" that keeps popping up.
Enchantingly written THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR is a wonderful film. Frankly, I'm surprised that it doesn't have a stronger following. A great cast includes Ruben Blades as the sheriff and Christopher Walken as a corrupt state police officer. A movie you'll watch again and again!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 1998
The best things about the film: the soundtrack, the landscapes, the characterizations, and the excellent and honest portrayal of the serious or humorous situations that arise when people clash with other people. An entertaining story, somewhat serious in tone, about a man (Joe Mondragon) who one day -- in an act of thoughtlessness -- starts a rebellion against a wealthy land developer who threatens his hometown. The residents of the town are either with Mondragon or (mostly) against him. But all comes out well in the end, despite the many mishaps, the comedies and near tragedies. Among the characters in the film are a not so saintly angel come to help Mondragon in his stumbling efforts, an elderly man who speaks to the angel and any other ghosts he believes are nearby, a pet pig who causes havoc, and a sociologist come to study the culture who unwittingly gets caught up in the situation while also learning a great deal about the culture. There are young people and elderly, quiet persons and outspoken, odd individuals and frustrated ones. The film has some charming moments, some extremely funny situations, and it shows the courage and cowardice, the confusion and clarity, and the sadness and beauty of all our lives. The soundtrack, with guitar played by Angel Romero, is incredible and absolutely perfect. The landscapes are lovely, and Redford gives us some of his artistry in the first and last scenes as he sets up the story, and in transitional scenes that are breathtaking. This film, whether you are fond of plot, characters, locations, music, humor or excitement, is wonderfully entertaining. Like me, you may find yourself cheered by it as well as haunted. It is certainly worth viewing a number of times if you are a student of directing styles. Redford's perspective is well-developed here, and though this is an early film, he is the expert. If you saw the Horse Whisperer, Quiz Show, or A River Runs Through It, you may get pleasure and illumination by viewing this earlier but by no means lesser film. It is an important contribution to the director's body of work -- and a lot of fun.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2000
I typed up a review and do not know if I sent it, so I will resubmit. The movie was fantastic. Robert Redford accomplished something no other Director has been able to do. He depicted New Mexicans as they really are. I was born a Ohio State Buckeye but lived in Las Vegas, New Mexico from the age of three until I was fifteen. My mother is Hispanic and my father Anglo. My heart is New Mexican. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio but travel to New Mexico as often as I can. During my last three trips I have tried to obtain the Music to the movie, but have only come up with versions of some of the songs. The songs are truely New Mexican. This is the only problem I have with the Movie. No available Sound track. Can anyone give me information on how I can obtain the music to the film? Watching the movie and listening to the music places me back in New Mexico when I am feeling home sick. Once again, a fantastic film.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2003
the fact that this movie is not available on dvd is one of the greater injustices the world may ever experience. i own the vhs, and i have watched it several times, and i LOVE it! it makes you laugh, cry, and wonder. i have little to say that hasn't already been said about this excellent film. even in a small, poor town, hope and perseverance can make a difference. throw in a little magic and superstition, and you have the perfect mix. "the milagro beanfield war" is a perfect movie; it has absolutely no flaws whatsoever, from beginning to end. no inconsistencies, no plot holes. the acting and camerawork and music are superb. and about the music! yes, i love dave grusin's work for this film! in fact, i had the "migration" album before i ever saw this movie, and it was the music that prompted me to order the film! both the cd and the film were money incredibly well spent.
it pains me to no end that i cannot buy this excellent film on dvd! on a recent trip to the video store i saw the movies "raptor" and "meet the feebles" on dvd! now if any of you are even vaguely familiar with either of those two titles, you can imagine my outrage that THEY could be put on disc but not "TMBW"! i've decided to fix this problem myself by buying a new vcr, a dvd-burner and video-capture software for my computer. with that, i shall record the film to my hard drive, then burn it as a dvd movie. this way i can preserve all my old vhs-only classics. but for anyone who hasn't seen this movie, please do yourself a favor and buy it! i see no way you could go wrong here.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2005
Since the medium was first introduced, I've been waiting (were it applicable for me, I'd say praying, on bended knee) for Milagro to appear on DVD. This movie easily ranks among the top entries in my "desert island" must-haves. To be honest, I never held out much hope that it would ever happen. The release of this title on DVD is one of the most pleasant surprises in recent memory, almost enough to make me religious -- "Thank you God for granting me another day!"
Nichol's work, after his successful novel "The Sterile Cuckoo" (made into a movie starring a very young Lisa Minelli) and his subsequent move to northern New Mexico, took a turn that was politically anathema to some (increasingly leftist), but his passion for the land and for the people transcends the realm of the political and becomes something spiritual -- hence, the name, Milagro, which means miracle. Even if you can't identify politically, this is one of the most beautiful cinematic presentations I've seen, and it's drenched in humanity.
Prior to Redford's movie interpretation, I was already a total Nichols fan. His New Mexico Trilogy -- The Milagro Beanfield War (1974), The Magic Journey (1978), and The Nirvana Blues (1981) -- was a heartfelt take on the northern New Mexico socioscape of indigenous people suffering in the wake of encroaching money and development from major American population centers. Rich people, searching for escapes, retreats, and vacation homes in the gorgeous Western hinterland, have been displacing the long-time residents of those hinterlands for decades. Nichol's books take on the viewpoint of the people dispossessed and disenfranchised. The theme still resonates today wherever the powerless are pushed aside for new development, vacation estates/ranchettes, or a new golf course. The last paragraph of "Nirvana Blues" confirms Nichol's digust with America's disregard for the powerless. His main character dreams of going to a better place, a place where people are respected, honest work is respected, and wealth doesn't rule absolutely -- in Nichol's 1981 vision, this means Cuba: "Yet Joe remained intact, and continued falling toward the green hills and succulent valleys of a Communist country."
Today, of course, it wouldn't be politic to make such a statement. As a political entity, communism has been pronounced a failure (Ronnie Reagan, early to mid 80s), and, by extension, ANY and ALL social concepts like the rights of each and every member of a given society have fallen into disrepute. After all, we live in George Bush's America ... now that I think about it, the message of the New Mexico Trilogy is more relevant today than it has been at any time since 1981. Ultimately, Nichol's work is about protecting the rights of the common man in the face of political and monied interests. I ain't no rich man's son, and I can identify. If you've ever experienced a feeling of creeping social vulnerability, of being overrun by irresistable forces, of being dispassionately cast aside, check out this movie, and better yet, read the three books in Nichol's New Mexico Trilogy. They're all about people, the land, and real compassion.They're also very rich reads, produced by a highly skilled wordsmith.
I don't know how involved you were in the production of this DVD, but thank you VERY MUCH Robert Redford for making the release of this movie to DVD a reality.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the soundtrack is magical. My wife and I have been hoping that it would make it to CD at some point, but that's probably WAY too much to hope for. (Hey, Mr. Redford, what are the chances? Maybe just make the tracks downloadable on iTunes?)
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 1999
I am a native New Mexican, transplanted to the great Pacific Northwest. My heart will always be with the people and culture of New Mexico. This film truly captures the spirit of "The land of enchantment". Watch it and you will fall in love with New Mexico.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2004
Beautiful film from (then very fresh) director Robert Redford. This film depicts the epic struggle between good and evil with some very nice twists. Excellent roles that were handled well by Ruben Blades, Sonia Braga, James Gammon, and a host of many other great characters that were depicted quite well. Chris Walken presents to us the governmental enforcer to a sheer tee. Richard Bradford (joined by Melanie Griffith) also gives us the perfect "fat cat" & (his) band of bad guys that are trying to hoard an already conspicuous pipeline of water through a dry valley near the Mexican border when one of the (near povertied) residents of Milagro makes a grave, yet somehow worthy mistake.
Milagro is a community inhabited by crazy townfolk, idealistic views, & even a familiar face (Freddy Fender) as town mayor. Get ready for ghosts, legends, and an inspiring story and cast that will keep you smiling, thinking, and loving this film for many years to come!
*A grammy won that year for the haunting soundtrack was also quite well deserved.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 1999
I have seen this movie many times and am continually struck by the skillful developement of the characters and introduction (for me) of the culture of New Mexico. Great plot, excellent acting, beautiful scenery - what more could you ask for?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR was a wonderfully orchestrated, directed and overlooked film by Robert Redford. It truly showcases magical realism, a style of storytelling often depicted in Latin American tales, LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, a novel written by Laura Esquivel and brought to the screen by Alfonso Arau, being another great example. Essentially, magical realism is an artistic genre in which magical elements appear in an otherwise realistic setting. When done well in film, the viewer transported to another space and time where there nothing is impossible.
This great story take place in a small New Mexican town (I am not exaggerating when I say "small," either. The population is 500 and many of the residents acquire their livelihood from the land, in the beanfields, to be specific). All of that is about to be challenged by stealthy land developers who want to destroy the rich and pliable earth, to construct golf courses and other more Yuppified, upper-middle class attractions. There is one man who plans to stand his ground in the face of developers (and even bulldozers). That man is Joe Mondragon (Chick Vennera). What's more, Amarante, the elder of the town (Carlos Riquelme), who has been written off as crazy, speaks to the angels (people who knew and lived in the town long before the developers were even a glimmer in their parent's eyes). This also co-stars Christopher Walken, as the token "bad guy" (a typecast he has become all to well-known for), Sonia Braga, Ruben Blades and Daniel Stern.
Magical realism comes into play in many respects. For example, Amarante's dialogue with the angels is very real and common place for the elderly man, but a form of insanity to his neighbors. Also, the line between incident and fate gets progressively blurred, after an accident occurs. I don't want to ruin it for you, so, you'll just have to see it for yourself. This film is humorous, intelligent and very well-done. I think you'll enjoy it, too.