Well, I saw the flick and honestly - disappointed.
It's not that it's a bad movie. Performances were fantastic, story was interesting, some of the most realistic characterizations I've ever seen in a film (especially for Zellwegger's character and Ed Harris' lead), the surprise of Lance Henrikson (!!!!) was awesome as I love that guy in any western, and it definitely has a great ending.
There's a ton to love about the film throughout. The well-lit scenes, fantastic use of color and film (this was, amazingly, not shot on digital), the few key moments of violence are well-handled (not perfect, but well-handled), the town is a great character for the movie, and it does have some fantastic dialogue. Not to mention the chemistry of Viggo and Ed is pretty much one of the best western duos ever.
The real catch is just that I never ended up feeling satisfied. Sure, it's a good ending for the story, but there's many things in the execution throughout the film that pull back, not giving you the visceral moment that allows you to go WHOA and pump up. You get two fantastic moments in the first 15 minutes of the movie, and then it's over. Nothing happens and you get a long, long, long, long set-up before anything starts really going on again (that being when Bragg is being transported to his execution).
Look, I'm not saying this needed more "action" or gunplay. The drama on a conceptual and thematic level, as well as the performances of the actors, was VERY good. It showed the subtlety and maturity I was hoping for. What I didn't get was scenes that actually showed a sense of "dramatization". I had a long talk with my dad after we watched the film about what was kind of wrong and one conclusion I came to, in a long rant about movies in general, was that what makes a movie stand out (especially the great ones) is seeing that the movie is an extension through the screen into an entirely different world. Cinematically-speaking. Appaloosa lacked this, as have other films that ended up kind of disappointing me. To be quite blunt, realism can come from many areas. Using minimalistic ideas in cinematography and blocking doesn't always work. With David Mamet, it does, because the material is so strong you just put the camera in the middle of the room and boom, you got a great flick (although I'm sure hardcore fans of Glengarry Glenross will kill me for saying that). But westerns have always prided themselves on having something of a more in-depth sense of dramatization, where you get to soak into another reality. You're meant to look back in time. I've always found (truly without fail) that the best way to bring the audience into the reality of the movie is through the story, script, characters, and performances. In this part, the reality was solid, sold and outright perfect. But on a visual and directorial level, I didn't get that in most of the film.
Which is not to say it isn't at all in the movie. The opening, the moments of violence, and the entire train sequence where Bragg gets sprung include this brilliantly. The final execution of what could have been Everett Hitch's last decision was also great. You get a good rush from that finale.
But the pieces that make up the whole just didn't click together for me. It's a little hard to explain without getting long-winded about it, but the gist best I can say is that I felt the movie held back too much in the wrong ways.
It's still worth seeing for fans of old-fashioned westerns, but I honestly don't think I'll ever see it again (although I'd probably have my actors watch certain scenes on loop). Slow westerns are fine, mature westerns are fine, hell, westerns without an ounce of gunfire are fine by me and I love some of them and will praise'em when I dig'em. But you're meant to entertain the audience and you can't let the point of your film, however brilliant and at times well-executed, overpower that.
Interesting sidenote: The cinematographer, amazingly, was known for a few Ozsploitation films in the early 80s such as one of my favorite movies - Razorback. He also did The Road Warrior (and worked with George Miller multiple times), Dances with Wolves (no kidding), The Power of One (a great South Africa drama), Last Action Hero, and many others
....including...Super Mario Bros. o_o