Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unforgiven (1992)

I rarely ever watch western films and most of the ones I have seen are just bad in my opinion. In fact, before "Unforgiven", I have only ever really liked one western film, "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford". Instead of talking about the value of a life like most films do, "Unforgiven" studies the different perspectives on the value of a life. It's a very realistic movie that doesn't glorify killing or shootouts yet even so, this movie still manages to inspire feelings of fear and respect for the protagonist.

William "Bill" Munny (Clint Eastwood) is the anti-hero who reformed from a stone-cold killer to a small time rancher. He has earned a very big reputation for killing people without any hesitation and for his nerves of steel. 3 years after his wife has passed on, William gets a visit from a kid who wants to collect on a bounty. Through his own moral justifications and for financial reasons, William looks up an old friend (Morgan Freeman) and decides to join the kid on his quest. The bounty involves two cowboys who cut up a prositute's face, which sets off a chain of events. The deputy sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), tries to settle it by ordering the cowboys to give some horses to the pimp for compensation. Unsatisfied with the justice served, the prositutes issue a bounty for the two cowboys. When Little Bill learns of this, he is adamant on protecting his authority and self-served justice. An inevitable clash of violence ensues...

There is a lot of contrast in this movie. The eager kid who desperately admires William's reptutation wants to make a name for himself but ultimately decides against it when he realizes the burden of killing a person. William and Little Bill has their own set of morals that they live by, they are not portrayed as bad people, but just regular people with different ideals. William believes that he was wrong to have killed all those people before but in the end, he kills mercilessly again. It was in his innate nature to be a killer, he didn't care whether the people he killed truly deserved it or not, it was just personal revenge to him.

"Unforgiven" also talks about myths and legends, especially larger-than-life western legends. William is considered a legend, almost everyone knows who he is because of his notoriety. He is described by many to be a stone cold killer with incredible gun slinging skills to match and a man with no weaknesses. Yet in reality, he is a man just like any other who gets scared and sick. The movie constantly reminds us of this contrast. Everytime William is seen experiencing difficulty, his reputation reminds us of what he is capable of. At the very climax, he threatens people not to shoot him or he will massacre their families and even though he was vastly outnumbered, nobody dared to shoot. He was merely a man but he was viewed as an incredible legend by everyone and this obscured his weaknesses and flaws, their fear was equivalent to the question "How can you shoot the Devil in the back? What if you miss?".

"Unforgiven" is all in all a very good movie, it talks about a lot and the climax feels really epic. A 9/10 in my opinion.

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