FROM THE MGM STABLE
THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)
CAST: CLINT EASTWOOD, JEFF BRIDGES, GEORGE KENNEDY AND GEOFFREY LEWIS.
DIRECTION : MICHAEL CIMINO.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON 22ND MARCH, 2014 ( YOU SEE I HAD WRITTEN PROLIFICALLY DURING THE MONTH)
We are afoot and agog in familiar terrain where two men, orphans of the big, bad world, seem to come from nowhere and go nowhere in particular. They have no clear traces of the past or any solid inkling of the coming future but they are alive and kicking . So by hook or by crook, these two men who bear the titles of THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT want sufficient money that they will not receive from anyone around in this cold, uncaring social structure where they are mere statistics of amorality. As a viewer, we think, “how can two dashing men as these be on the very margins?” but they are. That’s the verisimilitude that cinema invites where like real life appearances bely the grave truths of underprivileged beings. So it is for these two men. They want some quick bucks and have to take certain unpredictable U turns in the course of their brief journey together but trust me, they mean no real harm to anyone around for if they self destruct, it is only a matter of their own selves. Otherwise, what a fun time we have with these two chaps. Since watching this film on the MGM channel in 2014 just once, I haven’t been able to erase the charisma of the leads and the deft handling of director Michael Cimino who we all know as the maker of another seminal classic THE DEER HUNTER. The ways of men, their interpersonal camaraderie and their uncertain place in the world owing to their blank antecedents is something he knows and brings to the fore with an appropriate understanding, maintaining a light- footed grip on the brakes that run this ’70s vehicle.
These men are in charge of their limited destiny and we go along with the flow. You see we are afoot and wander the expanse of open Montana roads and country locations, one where a streetcar named desire careens into quaint little elevations. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s bumper ride of mutual wit, back and forth is offset by their trickery directed towards making a clean sweep at a fortified safe house – a local, heavily guarded bank. Instinctively we know those operating the bank may have their chinks in the armour and no one claims to be a goody two shoes.
But we follow this little adventure that comes with no clear resolution, is fraught with danger and of course even includes the possibility of loss of life. The screenplay passes through comic peaks and valleys, akin to features headed by dynamic adventurers. Cue Jeff Bridges in drag as part of their antics, a host of rabbits appearing on the already sparse Montana highway, the only instance I know of Clint Eastwood laughing onscreen while in the company of his formidable onscreen ally and Bridges in those standout moments where he squeaks ‘I love you’ to a passing bike borne girl and revolving around his banter with senior partners played by George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis. No wonder Bridges received a richly deserved Oscar nomination for his jolly avatar. He enlivens the viewer and is a showman, going one up on and still keeping a tight balance with Eastwood’s legendary unspoken consistency . The kind of carpe diem recklessness that keeps the child alive in a personality is Lightfoot’s gift.
Of course, it goes without saying that the quantum of this road trip is handled superbly by these two premium, blue blooded acting giants who have prevailed till this date and preserved their individual brilliance. The supporting members do incredibly well on their part.
THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT bears an entertainment quotient that’s worlds apart from today’s fast and furious signifiers. The lead duo travels those miles and tags us along. They are like Jai and Veeru, those legendary BFFs from SHOLAY (1975). Thunderbolt may appear gruff but he extends his innate innocence and his friendship runs thick with the impishly mischievous and unforgettable Lightfoot. They are adults who know the consequences of the trajectory they take for themselves but their hearts are open for each other. They endear and endure.
YE DOSTI HUM NAHI BHOOLENGE( this is one bond of friendship we will never forget).