No 158 - Unforgiven
Director - Clint Eastwood
Well, April has been a bit of a write off hasn't it?! But do not blame me, blame the Ash Cloud for turning a 5 day business trip into a 2 and a half week fiasco in the Philippines. Not that I'm complaining in any way shape or form.
It does mean I've been out of the loop for this top 500 and have instead been reading and burning in the stupid heat. But - today I reached sun saturation point and have hidden myself indoors and I remembered, I have two films I've not yet written up.
So please excuse me if these are a bit hazier than normal but I watched them a fortnight ago and just never got round to blogging.
Unforgiven is a harsh film. The tone is set immediately as it opens up on a rape and knife attack. This not only informs you that the Wild West was not a nice place (hell this aint Back to the Future 3) but it is also the key event which fuels the rest of the film, for regardless of what Bill (Gene Hackman and, I assume, the Sheriff) doles out as punishment it is not enough for the whores of the brothel and they demand vengeance. So the film begins a bit of a pattern:
Bounty Hunters arrive to dole out death to the original attackers.
Bill (who we slowly realise is NOT a nice person) kicks them around - A LOT - for not handing in their guns.
Bounty Hunters leave all battered and bruised.
The story itself is not that exciting, but the cast really is. This is a western about old timers. In a time where most people were shot at and died young, it would have been tough to live to an age where you began to grey. And yet here they are. We have 3 main characters and an additional on for garnish.
At the crux of the film, we have 3 powerful performances. Firstly from Gene Hackman as the sheriff and probably the most violent person in the entire film. Then we have the incredibly talented star and Director Clint Eastwood with his best buddy Morgan Freeman. Off the two of them go to collect this bounty. Persuaded to come out of retirement for just one last job. We then have Richard Harris who's performance as the wonderfully arrogant English Bob is almost the film's comic relief (until he is unmercilessly and harrowingly beaten up. Repeatedly. By Bill). This is not a film just about gunslingers. This is a film about what it is like to kill someone and the journeys those gunslingers must travel before they can get to that point.
What is interesting is to see the pangs of morality and the shifts in allegiance between the pair. Originally they hear terrible things have happened:
"Yeah, they cut up her face, cut her eyes out, cut her fingers off, cut her tits, everything but her cunty, I suppose. "
But when they get to town they meet the woman in question and find that she is fine. Besides a few scars. She and Clint share a naturally affinity and she cares for him after he has been kicked around by Gene Hackman.
What is interesting is seeing the way that the characters deal with everything. James Woolvett's role as the Schofield Kid begins all pomp and arrogance as he tries to talk Clint's Bill Munny into joining him as partners. As the deaths and the attacks become real you realise he is just talk and he becomes quieter and more introspective. A scared little boy who has lept too far out of his depth.
Clint's silence is far more dangerous, and far more incredible to watch. Slowly Bill Munny regains his vices. He kills again. He drinks again and he is full of self loathing. You can see it in every part of Eastwood's perf0rmance and it is both hypnotic and terrifying.
It all builds up to the final act in which Bill Munny goes on a killing spree and we see that Clint Eastwood still has the force to convey a terrifying and powerful foe (hell, Grand Torino showed he may never lose it - as long as he can keep that steely look of anger in his eyes). It is not just a gratuitous gun fight, it is over very quickly, but it is all the more powerful for having followed Bill Munny's story. For seeing how he was pushed to each point.
Really, this film just shows how incredible Clint Eastwood is because it is a heart breaking performance and it is matched by a beautifully directed film. Some of the shots (particularly the silhouetted vista shots) just made me wish for the Technicolor westerns of yore.