'The Mustang'

John Thomas
Roman trains The Mustang.

Humans and animals have an inexplicable affinity for one another, be it between a person and a dog, a horse or a cat. Lucky humans are those who recognize and embrace this. They are rewarded in many ways, mainly with lives enriched. Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been incarcerated in solitary confinement at a Western prison facility for twelve years.

As he states in the film, he doesn’t get along well with people. The wild horses roaming this same area don’t do well with people either.

To control the mustang population in a humane manner, the US Government has initiated several programs. By frightening loud helicopters and off-road vehicles a number horses are herded into collection arenas to be trained.

One such arena is connected to Roman’s prison facility, in the center of the dusty, bleak plains where the horses roam. To generate funds to finance this program, horses are rounded up, broken and trained by qualified inmates and then sold at an annual auction. Not an easy task, but there can be positive results for both the prisoners and the horses. Myles (Bruce Dern) manages such a program.

He notices Roman and feels there might be potential for him as a trainer. At five a.m. the next morning Roman is fitted with a pair of boots and the challenge to stay in the corral at least five seconds alone with the most agitated horse. Henry (Jason Mitchell) has participated in this program many times before so is able to offer Roman advice and suggestions for his first contact with the horse.

The encounter goes well enough for Roman to become a part of this program. He also begins to connect with the horse and also Henry. His “adopted” mustang, however, is not going to be easily tamed. Both the horse and man are strong willed, wild and not given to being controlled. Eventually with patience, determination (and help from Henry), Roman is able to put a rope around the horse’s neck and finally to saddle him. Mounting the horse is another challenge that also is overcome.

Both the newly trained horse and rider are ready for the day of the auction. It is an exciting day for Roman, a day when he feels a kind of positive attitude and sense of accomplishment. His horse also appears willing to comply and perform. They are the last participants of the auction. Everything has gone smoothly with the other horses and riders. It also begins well for Roman and his mount until a thundering helicopter appears overhead.

Myles had once told Roman that there are some wild horses that cannot be trained and will be put down. Does that mean there isn’t an alternate solution? 

Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre [Credits: Rabbit (short), Atlantic Avenue (short)] “The Mustang” is a “should see” movie that runs 96 minutes.




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