Monday, March 02, 2015

Unforgiven




Directed and starring Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples, Unforgiven is the story of a former criminal who decides to return to the world of crime for one last time as he copes with a band of unruly bandits and those who are supposed to be men of the law. The film is an exploration of the dark world of the Western where a man who was known as a cold-blooded killer deals with his demons as well as a world that is changing around him. Also starring Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Frances Fisher, Jaimz Woolvett, Saul Rubinek, and Richard Harris. Unforgiven is an astonishing yet evocative film from Clint Eastwood.

The film revolves around an infamous killer who has given up the life of killing as he tries to start a new life as a farmer as he’s asked by a young man to aid him in killing two men who had assaulted a prostitute in Wyoming. It’s a story that is quite simple as it explores a man who was known for doing some of the most gruesome things in the world such as killing women and children as he is asked to kill one more time in the name of justice. For William Munny (Clint Eastwood), it’s a tempting thing to ask as he does need the $1000 reward so he can do more for his farm as he also has two kids. Once he’s joined by the young man in the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), Munny copes with his sins of the past as he realizes he might not have the stomach to do the job. Meanwhile at the town where the prostitutes lived in, its sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) has taken charge and let the two men go as he decides to do things his way as he serves as a challenge to Munny.

David Webb Peoples’ screenplay definitely explores the idea of sin and redemption as it looms around a man like Munny who was notorious for being a cold-blooded killer. Yet, he is introduced as a man trying to raise his two children and farm while still mourning the death of his wife whom he believes had saved him as he’s sworn off drinking and other vices. Upon being asked by the Schofield Kid to do the job all because a prostitute named Delilah (Anna Levine) had giggled over a man’s small penis which she got beaten and cut up for. Munny’s sole motivation for the job is money as he asks his old friend Ned to aid him where it’s clear how close they are but also in the fact that they’ve both moved on from their past as they are driven by money to do the job. Upon their encounters with one of them, it’s clear that these two former killers not only cope with old age but also the fact that they’re not the same young and ruthless men they were leaving Schofield to do more.

Munny’s story parallels with the one that Little Bill is having as he is a sheriff trying to maintain control but under his own terms as he would humiliate a rival in English Bob (Richard Harris) who would arrive into town, with a writer named W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek), to do the job and collect the reward. There’s an aspect about Little Bill that is interesting as he is someone that has seen a lot of gunplay that intrigues Beauchamp who is interested in the myth of the West. There’s questions into whether everything that Little Bill might be saying is true as he seems to be very interested in being the subject of a book. Still, he’s a man that is quite full of himself as the way he dealt with Delilah’s assault bears no elements of justice where he lets those two men walk off freely. Even as he asserts his authority in a brutal fashion upon his first encounter with Munny over the fact that Munny is carrying a rifle as he made rules about no firearms in his town. It does lead into a confrontation between the two later on as it relates to what Munny once was but also who Little Bill is as it relates to the idea of mortality.

Clint Eastwood’s direction is truly mesmerizing from the way he opens and closes the film with a sunset of a man in his home near the grave of his wife as it sort of establishes who William Munny is and what he once was. Shot on location in Alberta, Canada, the film does have this feel of what was once the American west in places like Wyoming during the late 19th Century as it’s a time of change as the old rules are no longer welcome. It’s something that Munny has accepted as he focuses on his family and farming though the latter isn’t going so well as he knows he needs money to fix the farm. Eastwood’s direction is quite simple as he doesn’t really go for any stylistic shots but does take great use of the locations as he goes for a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the vastness of the land.

The direction also has some intimate moments as it relates to Munny’s friendship with Ned as well as scenes involving Little Bill talking to Beauchamp in his home which he’s trying to build by himself. Eastwood’s usage of close-ups aren’t very direct though it does play into the weariness that looms over Munny as he is coping with his own sins as he questions about whether he deserves redemption. Even as he would play into the ideas of killing a man as he admits that some of the men he killed didn’t deserve to die as it relates to the task at hand. Still, there is that thirst for justice as it does play into this climatic confrontation between Munny and Little Bill as it doesn’t just play into what is right and wrong but also the idea of who should be the one to burn in hell. Overall, Eastwood creates a very eerie yet exhilarating film about a former killer who copes with his sins as he goes back to his old ways to help his family.

Cinematographer Jack N. Green does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of naturalistic lighting schemes for some of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes to more low-key lights and shades for the interior/exterior scenes set at night including the film‘s climatic confrontation. Editor Joel Cox does excellent work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with the exception of some key dramatic and intense moments where he uses some jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into its impact. Production designer Henry Bumstead, with set decorator Janice Blackie-Goodine and art directors Adrian Gorton and Rick Roberts, does fantastic work with the set design from the saloons and buildings in the small town that Little Bill runs to the farm that Munny lives in.

The sound work of Les Freholtz, Vern Poore, Dick Alexander, and Rob Young is superb for the atmosphere it creates in the film‘s sound to play into the world of the American West in its small towns as well as the sounds of gunfire and low-key moments for the quieter scenes. The film’s music by Lennie Niehaus is incredible as it’s mixture of low-key orchestral music with plaintive folk guitars play into the sense of melancholia that looms throughout the film as well as the sense of dread that is to emerge.

The casting by Phyllis Huffman is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Aline Levasseur and Shane Meier as Will’s young children, Rob Campbell and David Mucci as the two men who assaulted and cut Delilah, Tara Frederick as a young prostitute named Little Sue, Josie Smith as Ned’s Native American wife Crow Creek Kate, and Anthony James as the saloon owner Skinny Dubois who would gain ponies as compensation for what happened to the prostitutes. Frances Fisher is wonderful as the head prostitute Strawberry Alice who demands justice for what happened to Delilah while Anna Levine is terrific as Delilah who feels victimized by what happened as she blames herself for what happened. Saul Rubinek is excellent as W.W. Beauchamp as a writer who joins English Bob on a trip as he is fascinated by Little Bill’s views on gunfights and such. Jaimz Woolvet is superb as Schofield Kid as a young gunslinger who is asked to take part in the scheme as he gets Ned and Munny to aid him as he copes with what is expected in tasks like this.

Richard Harris is fantastic as English Bob as an old gunslinger who arrives to town to talk about his exploits and do the mission only to be humiliated and torn to shreds by Little Bill as he plays as a man that is out of step with the times and quite full of himself. Morgan Freeman is amazing as Ned Logan as an old friend of Munny who takes part in the job to get some money as he copes with aging while trying to get Munny back in the game. Gene Hackman is great as Little Bill Daggett as a sheriff who is quite full of himself as he feels like his way is the right way while being very corrupt and brutal in the way he handles the law. Finally, there’s Clint Eastwood in a phenomenal performance as William Munny as a former killer trying to create a new life as he copes with his demons and sins while wondering what his late wife would think as he also realizes the sense of injustice that looms around him.

Unforgiven is a magnificent film from Clint Eastwood that features top-tier performances from Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman. Along with sumptuous visuals and an enchanting score, the film isn’t just one of Eastwood’s best works as an actor and director but also one of the most compelling westerns ever made. Especially as it plays into the idea of sin, death, and redemption in the eyes of a man who once a cold-blooded killer. In the end, Unforgiven is an outstanding film from Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood Films: (Play Misty for Me) - High Plains Drifter - (Breezy) - (The Eiger Sanction) - (The Outlaw Josey Wales) - (The Gauntlet) - (Bronco Billy) - (Firefox) - (Honkytonk Man) - (Sudden Impact) - (Pale Rider) - (Heartbreak Ridge) - (Bird) - (White Hunter Black Heart) - (The Rookie) - (A Perfect World) - (The Bridges of Madison County) - (Absolute Power) - (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) - (True Crime) - (Space Cowboys) - (Blood Work) - (Mystic River) - Million Dollar Baby - Flags of Our Fathers - Letters from Iwo Jima - Changeling - (Gran Torino) - (Invictus) - (Hereafter) - (J. Edgar) - (Jersey Boys) - American Sniper - (Sully)

© thevoid99 2014

5 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

This is one of my very favorite westerns of all time. It's just such a beautiful film. Clint was really on his A-game with this one and might be his finest directorial work.

Fisti said...

Yeah, this is Eastwood at the top of his game. I don't always love him as a director, but you can't deny how incredible this film is.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I think this is Clint's best work as a director. Truly an idea of what a western should be.

@Fisti-Clint maybe hit-and-miss at times but when he's on his A-game and comes out with films like this. This is why he's the man.

Ruth said...

I have a big blindspot in regards to Clint's directorial projects, but I'm especially intrigued by this one. Man what a great cast too, Freeman & Hackman alone + Eastwood himself is a strong trio!

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-This isn't just Clint's best film as a director but if you need to watch a western that he is in that isn't directed by Sergio Leone. It's this one. It is a true classic.