The Shootist (1976)
John Wayne's final movie is a refined and pensive western about an old gunman who rides into Carson City to pay a visit to an old doctor he knows about a back problem which turns out to be a cancer and a death sentence. Unfazed, he lodges a room at a local guesthouse and starts planning how to ensure a demise as untroublesome and dignified as possible. As the city welcomes him - a previously feared and revered pistol-fighter now past his heyday - it becomes clear to both us and him that time has come not only for him, but also for his kind.
The Shootist is a more modern western than what was typical for the 1960s and 1970s (and certainly than what Wayne had been used to) in the sense that it is character-driven and interested in the transition from the wild west to the urban, technologic USA - and how the gunfighter gets lost in the void that this transition creates. Director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) shows that he understands the value of subtlety, but it is Wayne himself, through his understated and deeply touching portrait, which gives the film the necessary authenticity and class. Siegel himself cannot avoid resorting to a few crude and unelegant 1970s-ish action sequences which don't fit well into the film's tone and tempo. And this goes especially for the final set-piece, which isn't given the necessary context to come off as the dignified and righteous swansong for Books as it should have. But that doesn't take anything away from the social and historical observations and the many brilliant character-relations, all of which are remarkably nestored by Wayne himself.