Thursday, 10 January 2013

Unforgiven (1992)

Unforgiven is an astonishing film, truly astonishing. Taking a great script and adding the baggage of Clint Eastwood's entire Western filmography, it makes for a fitting finale to that particular aspect of his career. From start to finish, the movie fills every scene with a love for the genre and an intention to show the flip side of that lifestyle. Many movies end with a gunslinger riding off into the sunset, but this one picks things up years later and shows how men who have killed other men can hold something inside them for the rest of their days, a mixture of regret and also the knowledge that they can easily kill again if the situation calls for it.

Eastwood plays Will Munny, a man with a violent past who has tried to make a new life for himself. He has children and stays true to his deceased wife. Unfortunately, his violent past doesn't always lead to him having a quiet life and that's the case when he's approached with an offer by 'The Schofield Kid' (Jaimz Woolvett). A couple of men were responsible for cutting up a whore (played by Anna Levine) and the other working girls in town weren't too happy with the punishment they received from Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Strangely enough, Bill normally metes out far worse punishments to anyone he sees as a threat to his idyllic vision of the town. He doesn't even allow anyone to enter with guns on their person, which doesn't bode well for the likes of English Bob (Richard Harris). It also doesn't bode well for The Kid, Munny and Ned Logan (Munny's friend, played by Morgan Freeman).

Unforgiven sees Eastwood hitting it out of the park in his role as director and, when you think of how well he's done in his directorial career, that's high praise indeed. It helps that he also does great in the acting department and surrounds himself with fine talent (Freeman, Hackman and Harris do some of their best work, there's a great little role for Saul Rubinek and Woolvett, Levine and Frances Fisher, playing mother hen to her girls, all do sterling work). Then, there's the great script by David Webb Peoples. It's full of quality lines and character moments that are often mesmerising (I should rave more about Hackman and Harris, both outstanding with the former, in particular, getting his teeth into an interesting villain who is given an interesting complexity and sense of morals). And everything is turned into pure gold when the distilled essence of Eastwood's years in the Western genre is added to the mix.

The film is both a love letter to every movie that has ever feature a gunslinger on-screen and also a serious and moving study of how a man who spends his life doing bad things can ruin any future chance of happiness and contentment that he may one day hope for. It is ultimately, of course, about the deeds and the people and even the reflections in the mirror that are unforgiven.


1 comment:

  1. This is one I wish Eastwood had let someone else direct. I'm as big a fan of Clint as there is, but he learned everything he knows about directing from Don Siegel, who was a solid journeyman, but, for the most part, pretty flat and uninspiring. UNFORGIVEN is a great, great movie, with a great script and great cast, but like most of Eastwood's directorial efforts, it just looks like a Siegel film, and one can imagine far better ways to shoot and edit nearly every scene in it.

    The one that always jumps immediately to mind is the showdown at the end. Little Bill is introducing Munny to everyone present as one who has killed women and children. "That's right," says mythic Righteous Vengeance, and as the camera pans into him, "I've killed women and children. I've killed everything that walked or crawled at one time or other, and I'm here to kill you, Little Bill." EXCELLENT combination of camera movement and delivery, except Clint has to add "...for what you did to Ned," which brings the whole effect crashing down like the World Trade Center towers.

    The whole movie is full of things like that, which is too bad, and my only beef with it.

    Clint dedicates this movie to Siegel and to Sergio Leone. I only wish he'd absorbed more of Sergio's way of handling a picture.