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The Horse Whisperer (PG) 168 mins

It may seems like the film Robert Redford has spent his whole career working towards, but The Horse Whisperer actually began life as a book by British author Nicholas Evans. The themes of a family in crisis, traditional values and the bond between man and horse will have rung loud bells for a filmmaker whose work, as an actor and director has, in some way, touched upon all of them in his many different films.

Redford certainly weaves a compelling story out of these diverse strands, opening with a breathtaking sequence as two teenage girls set off on a horse ride through the snow, only for tragedy to strike. One of the girls and her horse are killed outright when a juggernaut on a lonely country road ploughs into them, while Grace (Scarlett Johanssen) and her beloved Pilgrim are seriously injured. Physically they bear terrible scars: Grace has her leg amputated and Pilgrim goes through a slow and painful healing process for his broken bones and bloodied body.

But even as these physical injuries are repaired, the mental and emotional wounds prove harder to fix, a fact that Grace’s career-obsessed, magazine editor mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) recognises and goes to some lengths to remedy. Previously not the most attentive of parents, Annie is determined to do something and, after reading about the exploits of ’horse whisperer’ Tom Booker (Redford), persuades him to take a look at Pilgrim for her.

As with all such melodramas, the characters’ problems are all bound up together, as it proves Pilgrim’s trauma can only be cured if Grace too accepts Booker's help. This is help of the homespun, old Western variety: a kind, patient and understanding approach that soon produces positive results.

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.. . .1 The cowboy way: Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer

As with his previous efforts as director, Redford has made a fine looking film, but he drags his feet a little telling a story that would benefit from more pace. As an actor he is perfectly cast, though, embodying all those trustworthy elements that make audiences believe in such wonderfully corny entertainment, however cynical they may be.

When the end finally arrives, audiences will have been through a full range of emotions - as well as cramp - from a movie that is far too long, but has more thought behind it and heart within it than most other blockbusters on release this summer. (Anwar Brett)

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The Spanish Prisoner (15) 111 mins e e at e

Davrd Mamet's frrst frlm as drrector, House Of Games, was a clever, cold study of the art of the confidence trrck. Hrs latest, adapted from one hrs own plays, covers Srmrlar terrrtory.

To wrrte about the plot would be to grve too much away, because, for much of the frlm's runnrng trrne, rt's unclear who rs connrng who and thrs lack of clarrty rs fascrnatrng. What rs made apparent rs the focus of the con: a mathematrcal formula, referred to as 'The Process', whrch guarantees success rn busrness.

The openrng, set rn the Carrbbean, Introduces the pawns and the players Joe, the author of 'The Process' (the mesmerrsrng Campbell Scott), hrs greedy boss (Ben Gazzara), a drzzy company secretary (Mamet's Edrnburgh-born ere, Rebecca Prdgeon), hrs Cynrcal co-author (chky Jay, who also appeared rn House Of Games) and an enrgmatrc playboy (Steve Martrn, cast agarnst type for the performance of hrs career).

Cryptrc and playful, Mamet's wrrtrng, whrch has been compared to that of Harold Prnter, rs perfectly surted to the rllusory nature of the con. The rnsubstantralrty of everythrng, rrght down to the rmmaterral 'Process’, rs delrcrously maddenrng nobody can be relred upon, nothrng rs what rt seems

Wrth an rrnpressrve body of work In both theatre and frlm (from Glengarry Glen Ross and O/eanna to The Untouchables and Wag The Dog), whrch has been recognrsed by a Pulrtzer Prr'ze and Academy Award nomrnatrons, Mamet's staccato dralogue rs, by now, rnstantly recognrsable In fact, that famrlrar ’l.larnetran' dry delrvery rs rn danger of enterzng mm the realm of self-parody,

That sard, the performances rn The Span/sh Prrsoner are unrformly spot-on, wrth Mamet boldly redUCIng every scene to the bare essentrals: layrng bare hrs art, as rt were. Thrs rs supremely controlled storytellrng and terrerrta as cerebral as It rs fun. (Mrles FeEderr Glasgow Fr/m Theatre from Frr 28 Aug Edrnburgh Cameo from Sun 30

Con's air: Steve Martin in The Spanish Prisoner