Breakheart Pass [1975]

Adventure movies are hard to come by these days--they've been replaced by action movies, which favor fast cars and big explosions over the dangers of nature and explorations of human character. Breakheart Pass stars Charles Bronson as a mysterious petty criminal on the Western frontier. After being caught cheating at cards, he's arrested and held on a military transport train heading through the Rocky Mountains toward a fort on the coast, a fort stricken with diphtheria and in desperate need of the medical supplies on the train. But there's a conspiracy afoot--people on the train keep getting killed or disappearing--and the situation at the fort isn't what it seems either. Alistair MacLean adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and it's a well-plotted, efficient piece of work, made more compelling by a cast of solid character actors, ranging from Charles Durning (The Sting, Tootsie), Richard Crenna (Body Heat), and Ben Johnson (Oscar winner for The Last Picture Show) to guys whose faces you'll recognize, even if their names don't sound familiar. Breakheart Pass isn't The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Bronson isn't Humphrey Bogart, but the movie is a lean adventure flick with an outstanding score by Jerry Goldsmith. (Trivia buffs will catch Sam Elliot and Sally Kirkland in bit parts.) --Bret Fetzer

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