Red River (1948)
Director: Howard Hawks
What will be our mark on this world?
As I watched this film, I kept wondering of what the mindset of John Wayne's character, Tom Dunson, truly was. It felt to me as if he wanted to prove himself more than his surrogate son, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift) did. Here was a man who never had a true biological heir because his sweetheart was killed in an Indian raid, he's broke and his ranch is failing due to the aftermath of the Civil War. So this cattle drive of aggressive proportion is actually his final stab at proving his life was worth something. Even if he was only proving himself or to God (as he was reading the Bible so much). That's why he becomes dictatorial and cruel toward everyone. And when his herd was taken away by Matt (the more sensible one), two big blows were dealt. His chance was stolen from him by his "son" and the "son" never truly embraced Tom's mindset. So he became vengeful and wanted to kill him. But thankfully, Matt's rational yet driven nature ends up making the cattle drive a success.
For all the epic western sweep, the movie just shows two people who finally prove something to each other. I think in the end we all want to prove something to someone before we leave this earth.