Masterful character study manages a rare feat: demystifying the West without resorting to heavy-handedness and obvious targets. While the overall soundness of expansion is questioned, Altman is far more interested in the dynamics of community and how individualism is often sacrificed in the name of "progress." McCabe, played by Warren Beatty in what might be his best performance, is a vintage anti-hero; self-absorbed, bumbling, deluded, and concerned only with his own interests. Mrs. Miller, played wonderfully by Julie Christie, manages to evade cliché at every turn, never resorting to a "heart-of-gold" status and always keeping her eye on the bottom line. Their relationship, central to Altman's vision, gives us a dirty, unglamorous frontier, full of mindless violence, decay, and prostitution; again not the Hollywood version, but rather as it most likely was (and is). McCabe & Mrs. Miller co-exist not as friends or lovers, but rather as a business alliance, reinforcing Altman's belief that communities come together not out of a sense of sentiment or loving connection, but rather to build industry and frankly, make money. Once again, Altman uses overlapping dialogue, muffled conversations, and music (the soundtrack consists solely of sad Leonard Cohen songs) to convey character and the inability of people to engage in meaningful interactions. As McCabe wanders in a blizzard near the end of the film attempting to evade death at the hands of hired guns, members of the community he helped build remain oblivious to his plight as they instead focus on a burning church. Hopeless, alone, and facing a meaningless death, we are again put face to face with the stark truth provided by Altman. In the Old West, like any other historical era or region, there are no last-minute heroics or gentlemen atop white horses, only the sounds of the pipe dreamers and individuals gasping their last breaths as the wheels of capital grind on.