No good deed goes unpunished in Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman. And that's how the West was won.
Punishment is a running theme in this film, which Lee and two writing partners adapted from a novel by Glendon Swarthout. Lee directed the film, and plays a central character: George Briggs, who is first seen emerging from an exploding shack - and then seated atop his horse, hands tied behind his back, a noose around his neck.
His savior from a gruesome fate is a pioneer woman, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), who has just agreed to a good deed that could kill her. On this harsh Nebraska plain in the 1830s, three women have lost their minds. (Having spent time in Nebraska, I can assure you this is a normal reaction.)
The women need to be taken to a church in Iowa, which has offered to return them to their families. Since none of the men in the tiny town of Loup will volunteer for the task, Mary Bee agrees to drive the women, locked in a kind of rolling jail wagon, to Iowa and family.
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