Sarah Polley, Peter Mullan
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
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.