The sort of film that auteurism dusts off and rehabilitates, because its movie conflict (outlaws collide with pilgrims) is nowhere near as coherent or engaging as its worldview: community forming in a desert where cowhands, Indians, whores, and men of god can all have a place. A fantasy, for sure—America wasn't like this. But its also an endless poetic flow. Everything is both suspended and constantly moving.
A western filmed in chiaroscuro lighting. Ford proves himself to be the Giotto of the cinematic medium in this film, seamlessly combining the quotidian with the universal: "The Chuckawalla Swing" and the religious pilgrimage which pervades nearly every culture's history.
The most poetic Ford I've yet seen (and that's saying something). The American myth as repeating cycle, sailing Pilgrims now trekking Mormons. In place of narrative, good-naturedness wrestles with self-righteousness, a desire for peace with the inevitability of violence, "proper" behavior with the natural, vulgar beauty of humanity. The night skies alone deserve their own-write-up.