I think I'm finally over my "I hate westerns, but..." stage. I sort of like some westerns, so I was interested in finally watching today's movie - Unforgiven, directed by Clint Eastwood in 1992. Somehow I never saw it before, despite how famous it is. I always heard that it sort of marked the end of the western genre's popularity, which I think has since come back somewhat (also I've got a great western screenplay if anyone is buying, hint hint).

The movie was really great, focused on the dark side of the west. I loved the characters and the story, and it was just so well filmed and made. I liked that it was sort of a blend of a lot of different styles of westerns - John Ford meets Sergio Leone, in a way. It had a lot of brighter, beautiful outside scenes that were more adventure-y, but it was mixed in with the nastier, grittier, and more violent end of the film. I liked the combination, and really loved this movie! I'm pretty sleepy from having a bad headache today, so I'm going to have to keep this post short despite how much I love the film.

The film is about William Munny, once a crazy bandit, and now a man with children who works as a pig farmer. The Schofield Kid comes to find him, telling him that a prostitute has been badly cut by a couple of jerks, and there is a $1,000 reward for the murders of the men who did that to her. William decides to go with, realizing that the money would really help out his kids. He recruits his old friend Ned, but it seems like neither of the men are capable of murder anymore. Ned leaves after one of the cowboys is dead, but is captured and killed by the cruel Sheriff of the nearby town. William connects with his darker past and heads back to town to seek revenge.

I like everything about this story. I like that it shows some of the boring, realistic side of the west, but also some of the disgusting side. I liked that William was a questionable character to root for. You like him because he's a family man and has been trying (emphasis on trying) to leave his dark past behind him. You also sort of hate him for how terrible he is - it later is revealed that he was pretty awful back in the day. I also sort of respected him for going back to avenge Ned's death, even though it seemed like a bad choice. He's complicated, and I like about him. It makes you question his actions and if you really like him or not, and you have to sort of think more about why you're rooting for him (or aren't).

It's got incredible visuals, full of huge, sprawling landscapes. It's beautiful to look at and doesn't skimp on the great images that western genres allow. The outside scenes are really bright and wonderful, but the inside shots were so dark and moody and great. They were almost hard to see at some points. It created a really great atmosphere for the film,. and it was so enjoyable to watch. It really showed all the different sides to the west, you know?

I really loved watching this movie, and I'm glad I finally got a chance to. It's a great experience, and I hope that if you haven't seen it, you watch it if you like westerns at all. It's a great summation of all of the popular genres, and really is a fitting "end" to their popularity. I love that it's not easy to like all of the characters, and that they have weaknesses that are clear and obvious. It was so unique that there were two people who couldn't kill anyone, and it was handled really well. I should try to get some rest - let me know if you decide to check out this movie!

Have any thoughts on Unforgiven? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Unforgiven
Buy it on Amazon


Umberto D