My current Top 5

My current Top 5

6/14/2011

Number 16: Unforgiven (Best Picture Ranking)

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.

The movie gets most of its power from its constant contradiction about what to expect from a movie like this. It doesn't present the typical 'good vs. evil' but instead presents a time and a place where power and money made those decisions. William Munny and his helpers would usually be considered the good guys but the scenes when they ‘do their job’ are among the most disturbing ever put on the screen, especially the first time. It shows how horrible it is to kill and that there is no adventure and no honour in it. At the same time, Eastwood presents the typical ‘evil’ characters also in a very multidimensional light – the younger of the two men who attacked the prostitute is clearly sorry and upset about the whole thing while Gene Hackman’s Little Bill also isn’t the kind of tyrant you would expect.

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.

4 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I don't like this one much, and I like it even less considering that it won over Merchant/Ivory's best chance at taking home an Oscar.

Fritz said...

I saw Howards End first and I was always sure that it would be my pick for Best Picture since it is a brilliant movie but Unforgiven is a masterpiece, too. At the moment, I am undecided between these two...

Louis Morgan said...

A great film, I completely agree, although I certianly hope American Beauty and The English Patient do not make it much higher.

dinasztie said...

For me, it's an easy pick.

I'm a bit pissed that The English Patient is going to be in the Top 15, though. :)