All the Pretty Horses: Making use of these cliches… but not in a good way The movie makes use of these Western conventions, often in the most trite way possible. A common way to make something “Western” is through the use of soundtracks. Various samplings of country, twangy music are used in order to create the feel of an “authentic” setting. These tactics are mostly used in film at transition points between scenes or during an important moment, to make the audience feel a certain way. This music is used to mold the viewer’s opinions of various things in the film; unfortunately, in All the Pretty Horses the music only makes the viewer amused. The music is so clichéd, and so overused, that it almost becomes distracting. The New York Times review stated that the music was "a tasteful blend of mariachi, norteno and western swing (among other things), [and] covers the movie like wall-to-wall carpeting. Once or twice, it would be good to contemplate the vastness of the desert landscape in silence" (Times). Thornton would have done better to have left the music alone completely and to let the shots of the Western landscape speak for themselves; sometimes silence is golden. In fact, it could be argued that no soundtrack would better mirror the feel of the book and the silence of protagonist John Grady. Contrived music does not add another facet here—if anything, it is a huge detractor.
Another huge directorial flop in the construction of the film was the structure of the shots. There are large, big-blue-sky-of-Texas shots, showing the small size of the riders in comparison to the gigantic size of—in ascending order, of course—Texas, America’s West, the world, etc. It is not a bad way to get the point across. It is a good visual correlation of John Grady’s ponderings on the “wildness” of where he is and “the wildness within.” However, this effect is taken too far with close-up screen shots of characters faces. Perhaps intending to imply that these characters are having deep and meaningful thoughts, Thornton just makes things awkward. The close-ups last too long and continue one after another. In some of the more dramatic scenes of the movie they almost have a voyeuristic quality, making the viewer feel like and intruder that has stared a moment too long. This, combined with the "picturesque landscapes and grandiose gestures utterly lacking in narrative momentum or emotional resonance," create a film that seems to exist purely in the visual, evoking little emotion and creating little depth (Times).