Based on a classic novel by Glendon Swarthout, who also wrote The Shootist, The Homesman is something close to a great modern-day Western. As evidenced by his last film, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, director Tommy Lee Jones has a keen eye for hard landscapes (including his own weathered face) and emotional compositions. The Homesman is full of striking imagery: the locked, coffin-like coach, fresh new buildings in hardscrabble dirt, or a disturbed grave on a gnarly plain. Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is an upright, single pioneer woman in the Nebraska Territory, unable to find a husband on account of being "plain" and "bossy." When three local women go insane and need to be transported to Iowa for special care, Mary Bee volunteers for the unpleasant, dangerous job.