In 1992, Clint Eastwood won his first Oscars for Directing and Producing with his critically acclaimed Western Unforgiven. It tells the story of three men, the young and enthusiastic Schofield Kid, and the two older and disillusioned William Munny and Ned Logan, who want to kill two men who disfigured a prostitute in another town, ruled by the local sheriff Little Bill.
Just like in his later Oscar-winner Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood showed his overpowering talent for creating a quiet, almost peaceful atmosphere – the beginning scenes at the farm with the written introduction of William Munny is a great example but he also has the talent to show how much violence, misery, pain and other human emotions are actually hidden right under the surface. Unforgiven is not a loud western with a lot of shooting scenes but it is still an incredibly powerful swansong to an era and a genre.
And even though this is a movie mostly about men, Clint Eastwood also gives the female characters a strong part in the movie by making them the deciding force behind the actions. He always presents these female characters in scenes that almost look like paintings and seem so far removed from the rest of the story that it creates a wonderful contrast.
This unforgettable story is carried by a highly talented cast. Clint Eastwood is first-class in the central part as a man who wanted to leave his old life behind him but finds himself suddenly back ‘in business’. Morgan Freeman does what he does best – adding quiet dignity to his part and his movie. Gene Hackman burns up the screen but never appals with his fierce portrayal. Richard Harris is outstanding as the flamboyant and strange English Bob.
All in all, it’s a powerful and haunting movie that deservedly took home the Oscar.