Having already adapted Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Winterbottom plays to his strengths by transporting the heart of The Mayor of Casterbridge to the icy mountain wilderness of post-Gold Rush California. From the breathtaking opening panoramas showing the arrival of the determined railroad surveyor Mr Dalglish (a charismatic Bentley) in the remote Sierra Nevada town of Kingdom Come, it's clear this audacious Western was conceived on an epic scale. But what makes this one of the most remarkable British films of recent years is how the use of a heightened visual and aural architecture - the amplified roar of horses, clouds of condensing breath, angular wooden buildings dwarfed by vertiginous mountains - is deepened by a realist approach to acting, costume and design. Its snow settings and gloomy interiors might recall Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller; but the movie is not so much derivative or revisionist as swimming in a sea of cinematic associations and allusions. Its exhilarating, flowing beauty is fittingly scored by Michael Nyman. The often superb performances are marred only by a certain emotional distance which, finally, renders the film marvellous rather than truly moving.