Clint Eastwood, director of Unforgiven (1992) was born May 31st 1930, his acting career began in 1955 in B-films. Nearly giving up the career for only receiving uncredited bit parts, he finally got his big break with the series Rawhide(1959), shortly after he began getting more success with Spaghetti-Westerns, most noticeably “The Man with No Name” Trilogy. In 1971, Eastwood took another major step in becoming who he is today. Eastwood directed his first film Play Misty For Me(1971) which started a long career for the man; his potential was fully realized with Unforgiven, which had garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (for Eastwood) as well as winning Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture (both went to Eastwood) showing the respect for the masterpiece he crafted. His career continues to this day with ups and downs, but nonetheless he still shows why he's such a beloved and huge star, as well as still showcasing his strengths as a director.
Scott- Msa0510@mail.ecu.edu. "Clint Eastwood - Biography." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000142/bio>.
Unforgiven is a very notable film for critics and audiences alike for bringing a classic feel from the Western genre, while still breaking some of the traits of it. According to Andrew & Gina Macdonald, who wrote an article for the film in the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers what made the film stand out was having it return to the Western genre's “moral and thematic roots...” while adding some twists in terms of actions or reactions, or even personality’s to make it fresh and possible to continue with the aged genre for future generations. Cliches are repeated, but with fresh takes to it, adding a realistic feel to the fiction expected from the genre, as well as changing audiences perceptions on these character types. Eastwood himself even portrays this by showing the audience how much has past for his character's glory days as he appears as a man domesticated and no longer much of the gun-shooter as he once was.
Macdonald, Andrew and Gina. "Unforgiven." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. 4th ed. Vol. 1: Films. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 1261-1263. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Unforgiven is a true classic to it's genre and film in general, deserving all the praise it gets if not more. The film truly stands out because of everything it gets right, from the design of the sets, the way the film is shot and above all else the performances. It's a film that stood out upon release nearly two decades ago, and stands out today.
The film looks like an authentic Western, Unforgiven provides a look to the film that feels almost like the film was actually shot in the time period presented within the film. The way the towns and farmhouses are built look very authentic, it's amazing to look at the amount of effort put into making the film appear as the old west. Everything in the film showcases a masterwork of visual appearance to make it feel like a society that can go from calm and peaceful to violent within a second, giving a feel of intensity being around even when little appears to be going on. What makes the design of the sets work so well, is how much attention to detail was placed on the environments and the locals to make a believable world.
The impressive features of Unforgiven are also showcased by the way it was film, having subtle tidbits placed to let the audience know about the characters without flat out saying it. Clint Eastwood shows he's a beaten down man way past his old ways without having to say it, the imagery of him struggling to shoot perfectly or struggling to even get on his horse are enough to show he's not the man he once was, he's retired and long past those better days. Characters reactions in fear of seeing Eastwood throughout the film are enough to tell you who he once was. Even right down to other characters movements in these scenes, or various others that don't even feature Eastwood tell you much more about them, by showing how cowardly they react to having him or Gene Hackman around, both appearing as threats by the way they act.
The performances are probably where Unforgiven shines the most. The film uses it's cast in a very wise manner to tell the story, but what makes them truly stand out is how much effort the lead actors put into bringing their characters to life. No actor squanders their performance and each showcase why the film is considered to be a classic.
Clint Eastwood himself leads, he not only shows his strengths as an actor but also portrays the character Will Munny so will. Watching his performance not only feels like watching all his previous Western performances, but also Western protagonists all rolled into this one character who is so interesting to watch, even a little heartbreaking to see him in what is pretty much a weakened state. What really makes him likable is how much is shown to make the audience care for him, even if he's done wrong in the past, it's hard to hate the character no matter how much is known about his past. Eastwood also shows an interesting amount of characterization by how Will reacts upon hearing sad news of his friend Ned Logan (played by Morgan Freeman very well), his reaction and non-verbal response shows how well a performance can be while also illustrating an interesting choice writing for the film.
On the other side, Gene Hackman portrays antagonist Little Bill Daggett providing an interesting, yet menacing performance. What makes the character great is that when taking a step back, one thing that comes to mind is that although he may be an antagonist, he illustrates a character that in realistic terms, would probably be the person the audience would support. Gene plays the part in way that is likeable, and someone who'd be great to have a conversation with, though once something steps out of line he becomes a harsh menace who could very well beat someone to death, though surprisingly through his performance, and the way his character is written it's hard to truly hate him. Little Bill is a lawman who's just trying to do his job, and the law he upholds the most isn't even a bad one, though because of sometimes getting too assertive with it is what makes him a monster, he's not an evil man, just one written so well it almost feels hard to say otherwise without thought.
Unforgiven shines with it's performances from the lead actors, the writing, the story, the sets, everything, it almost feels impossible to find an area where it fails. It's understandable why it was praised upon it's release, and why it's still held in high regard nearly two decades after. Clint Eastwood truly shows his skills as an actor and a director.
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