Winner of the 1992 Best Picture Oscar (as well as 3 other Oscars), UNFORGIVEN, in my humble opinion, is the finest American western ever made. A timeless classic, it is a complex tale of the violence inherent in man and deals in ultra-dark shades of grey that the genre had not yet explored.
William Munny (Clint Eastwood) was once a killer of woman and children, but he claims that his wife rehabilitated him from his old ways and since she has died, he has been a good father to their children.
But when The “Schofield Kid” (Jaimz Woolvett) comes to visit with a proposition that could earn Will the money he needs to save his failing pig farm, it’s too good to pass up. One of the prostitutes in Big Whiskey was cut up and there’s a $1,000 bounty on the brutal man and his partner.
Will enlists the help of Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), his only friend in the world and they head out to get the job done and over with so they can get on with their lives. But things don’t go as planned. Not only is The “Schofield Kid” a rank amateur, but Big Whiskey’s sheriff “Little Bill” is unhappy by the entire situation and is not going to let bounty hunters usurp his authority. He makes his point with brutal extremes.
What makes UNFORGIVEN exceptional is that the type of “justice” that the film deals with is not easily rectified. A famous line of its dialogue perfectly sums up this paean of violence, “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it.” That, coupled with the film’s illustrative title, completely encapsulates the theme of the film.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, he waited until the time was right for him to make the film after years of sitting on the screenplay (written by David Webb Peoples). Fortunately, he made the right call, as he was at a turning point in his career. Warner Bros. had faith in him and felt with the script that it could be elevated above just plain genre fair. They gave Eastwood the time and budget to make the film great and to be able to hire a top-notch cast of A-list Actors still working at the top of their craft.
UNFORGIVEN is a dark brooding film and very different in tone than most westerns of the past. Most call it revisionist, but what it really is, is a master craftsman taking the material seriously and instead of glamorizing it, he strips it bare and shows how ugly violence and revenge can be. This allows the audience to make up their own mind when Munny reminds us “We all have it comin’.”
I enjoy watching westerns like SILVERADO (1985) and TOMBSTONE (1993), but UNFORGIVEN is the one I most respect. It’s a MUST SEE MOVIE whether you’re a fan of the genre or not and one of the rare instances that the Best Picture Oscar truly went to the “best picture” that year.
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