English director Michael Winterbottom is an ambitious and creative soul on the international scene. Three previous films testify to his resourcefulness, ingenuity, and ethical perspective — Jude, Welcome to Sarajevo, and Wonderland. This western, set in California's Sierra Nevada region 20 years after the Gold Rush of 1849, is loosely based on Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan) runs the mountain town called Kingdom Come. He controls the bank, the mine, the hotel, and the liquor store. His lover is Lucia (Milla Jovovich), a Portuguese chanteuse who runs the town's brothel. The powerful entrepreneur somehow feels that he has everything under control. But new arrivals in Kingdom Come test that assumption.

First is Dalglish (Wes Bentley), the leader of a team of railroad surveyors, who has the power to decide whether the railroad comes through Kingdom Come or not. Dillon, in the true spirit of business, offers him a bribe but this young man has his own ideas about the factors that will go into his final decision. The other newcomers are Elena (Nastassja Kinski) and her daughter Hope (Sarah Polley). It turns out that she's the wife Dillon abandoned years ago, giving her to a prospector in exchange for the mine that yielded the fortune Dillon now possesses in the form of gold bars.

This western morality tale asks the scriptural question "What does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world but lose his own soul?" Although Dillon desperately tries to make up for his sin of greed and callousness, poor Elena is dying of illness and young Hope is unable to connect with the man responsible for their desperate situation. The Claim reveals the emptiness of wealth when measured against the bounty and the beauty of the human heart. And like the many "dot.com's" that are disappearing from the landscape, Kingdom Come vanishes in a moment leaving only ashes as a monument to one man's hubris.