As evidenced by Jason's posts, regardless of how you feel about the ending, Lonely are the Brave is a film that the viewer can feel completely invested in. From the very beginning we're able to sympathize with and root for Jack Burns; this is a credit to Kirk Douglas, Dalton Trumbo, David Miller, and Edward Abbey. Luckily I get the benefit of writing this post after Brandon and John brought Trumbo and Abbey into the mix. Great points as always. But Jeff's right, too, this is a film that absolutely laments the Western.
Lonely are the Brave contains all the ingredients needed to make a good film. I agree with John and Jeff, the ending perfectly fits the tone/message of the film. A much bigger statement is made with the death of Whiskey/capture of Jack.
As Brandon writes, Jack Burns isn't a character we should sympathize with blindly; agreed, he earns our sympathy and respect, and does so relatively quickly. He's a man of honor and loyalty. He is the solitary man who doesn't do any harm to others. The bar fight with the one-armed man provided us a great moment in showcasing that, if confronted, Jack will always fight fairly (later he even shoots at a helicopter in a way that it can still land safely). Even the police officers note and sort of revere this about Jack as he's hauled into the police station. Not to mention the fact that Walter Matthau appears to be pleased when Jack escapes over the top of the ridge. Even the people who are trying to capture him at the end of the film are also secretly rooting for him to escape. There's something to be admired about the "independent man," even if he's met with an untimely end.
More on that ending...John writes that Jack Burns had died chasing freedom. So in the end, I think we'd all agree that Jack Burns wouldn't change a thing if he could do it all over again (except for maybe avoiding the highway). If your ultimate goal is freedom, nothing else matters. You attain it the way you want it, or you choose death. I can't see Jack ever changing who he is in the way that Paul did. They share a compelling moment just before Jack breaks out of the prison. The "cowboy spirit" has left Paul for good; he's traded in his spurs for a set of handcuffs, and chooses life (one dictated by society) over extinction.
Jack Burns is a man, who like all cowboys, has always lived his life on his own terms and isn't concerned with ridiculous laws and borders. John is spot-on...as the West undergoes this modernized transformation, the cowboy becomes extinct. "The cowboy has been killed by modernity," as John so accurately states.
I also felt that the ending was a downer, because like Jason, I wanted Burns to escape with Whiskey unharmed. I'm overcome with an awful feeling in stomach whenever an animal dies in a film, too, Jason. Hell, I didn't even like it when Whiskey was being forced to climb the ridge. But of course, I recognize, as Brandon, John and Jeff do, that the film needs to end that way to make its point.
In Jeff's posts, he makes a point similar to the idea that Burns is a man living in the wrong time period. I, of course, would have to agree with that.
Jason argues that the cowboy and modernity can coexist. I like and appreciate the fact that he tries to make that point. That's definitely something to be discussed, but I think John does an excellent job of arguing against that idea. Modernity doesn't want the cowboy to exist. The policemen want Jack to have a social security number and a steady address. They want him to fit into their system, otherwise, he'll be imprisoned. But there isn't a cell in the world that the independent man doesn't think he can break out of.