Robert Redford's underrated directorial follow-up to his Academy Award-winning Ordinary People, The Milagro Beanfield War is a loose and whimsical fable about community pride and social activism in the face of modern progress. Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman) plays a local mechanic in a small New Mexico town who takes up the challenge of rallying support for a local farmer who uses water owned by a real estate developer to grow beans in his field. Everything escalates to a showdown between the townspeople and the developers, with unexpected results. The strongest aspect of the film is the way it doesn't take itself too seriously, with Redford adopting a leisurely tone and allowing his fine cast (including Ruben Blades as the pragmatic town sheriff and Christopher Walken as a nasty state police officer) to deliver finely nuanced performances that touch on themes of faith and perseverance without seeming heavy-handed. The Milagro Beanfield War is an overlooked gem. --Robert Lane
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