IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH CLINT EASTWOOD REVIEW: “Unforgiven” stars Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars, Gran Torino), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Now You See Me), Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums, The French Connection), Jaimz Woolvett (White Fang [TV series], Sanctuary), Richard Harris (Gladiator, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Saul Rubinek (True Romance, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Frances Fisher (Titanic , The Lincoln Lawyer), Anna Thomson (The Crow, Desperately Seeking Susan), Anthony James (High Plains Drifter, In the Heat of the Night ), David Mucci (Half Baked, For Love of the Game), and Rob Campbell (The Crucible , Winter’s Tale). It is directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples (Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys ).
William Munny (Eastwood), an old outlaw turned pig farmer, returns to his former ways when a bounty is put out for two men who cut up a prostitute.
Kicking off this brand-spanking new director’s marathon is one of Eastwood’s finest achievements: “Unforgiven.”
There’s a lot of hype around this one. Immense hype. The kind that says “this is what brought westerns back” and “redefined the genre as we know it.” Big expectations can lead to disappointing conclusions, so I tried to temper mine as best I could going into this.
Needless to say, “Unforgiven” is a phenomenal film. But it takes its time to get there.
Playing against its genre (in a way), this western showcases the harsh reality of murder; what killing a man can do to the soul, and change a person into something inhuman. Mortality and age tie into this, culminating in a way that’s poetic, told by beautiful cinematography, wonderful performances, and brutal action.
The further it went, the more I fell in love. It’s a hero’s journey that only gets more (shall I say it?) unforgiving as it goes along. And boy, does Eastwood and his writer know how to break a character down. One scene in particular, where Eastwood’s Will Munny and Wolvett’s Schofield Kid hear tragic news of their friend, gave me chills. Easily one of the best wrap-ups to a story I have seen. It’s Eastwood at his finest, reminding me of just how awesome this guy is (much like his turn in “Gran Torino”).
Everyone in this did a great job. Gene Hackman was stellar as the villain, and Morgan Freeman was fantastic as a sidekick with morals. They created the moments that draw you in, even outside of the action sequences (that don’t really happen until close to the hour mark). You simply want to get to know these guys, and revel in how this landscape has changed them.
Eastwood’s direction of this feature hinged on his innate sense of performance and the western genre. His ensemble cast filled the frame greatly, and the visuals captured were terrific. It’s hard not to watch the silhouetted horses galloping in the sun and be in awe. Paired with the lovely bookend scenes (utilizing “Claudia’s Theme”), this is a well-rounded feature, and an even more remarkable western. The dialogue can be hokey at times (especially in the beginning), and it does take a bit to get rolling, but overall it’s a marvelous piece of cinema. FINAL SCORE: 95%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: