HELL ON WHEELS PREMIERES ON TCMBeginning May 20th and continuing weekly every Sunday at 9pm and repeated on Thursdays at 9pm
This stylish western is set in the 1860s and follows the success of other 21st century westerns such as, Deadwood, starring Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant which have proved to be so successful. In Hell on Wheels we follow a classic anti-hero, Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) an ex-Confederate soldier who learns that his wife has been murdered by Unionists, and who is fuelled by his desire for revenge. As with all good westerns the various sub-plots are concerned with stories of good versus evil, love and hate, heroes and anti-heroes, life and death.
All the action in Hell on Wheels is set around the pioneering construction of the Union Pacific railroad as it rips through the stunning landscape of the Wild West, invading the territory of the indigenous population but undoubtedly bringing freedom and progress to people who have been reliant on horse-power along. And this kind of conflict is at the heart of this thoughtful drama. We have different groups of immigrants thrown together so racial tensions are rife as they contribute to the hard labour needed with this kind of transportation empire building.
The episodes are populated with colourful and larger-than-life characters who aren’t afraid of existing in a brutal terrain if it means that they are able to benefit from the profits and make new lives for themselves. And the show’s producers haven’t shied away from recreating a harsh and gritty environment. The attention to detail is great and helps to show the audience the reality of living in a filthy, chaotic and unhealthy campsite which is known as Hell on Wheels.
The cinematography is at times breathtaking. It is both stylish and stylised giving a moody and atmospheric feel. The stunning landscapes provide some welcome respite to some of the more gory and gritty scenes. Life is brutal when you spend all your days breaking the rocky and hostile terrain by hand – Hell on Wheels doesn’t let us forget it!