The Claim, directed by Michael Winterbottom, moves Thomas Hardy's 1886 novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge" from England to the Rocky Mountains during the gold rush. More than a few nuggets are lost in the journey. But Winterbottom, who also filmed Hardy's Jude in 1996, draws an electric performance from Peter Mullan as Dillon, a go-getter who makes his fortune at great cost to his soul: He trades his wife and baby for a gold claim. Twenty years later, Dillon is a mining-town kingpin, screwing a saloon singer (Milla Jovovich) and outsmarting a railroad surveyor (Wes Bentley). But the past returns with the arrival of a sickly Polish woman (Nastassja Kinski) and her comely daughter (Sarah Polley). It's all lugubrious as hell, and a bit irritating when Bentley and Polley — two fine young actors — are encouraged to act like contemporary kids in the questionable Titanic tradition. But the power of the tale, and the visuals, exert a hold.
From The Archives Issue 415: February 16, 1984