Rank on the AFI List: #68
WHAT I ALREADY KNEW ABOUT THE MOVIE:
It's a Western, starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Gene Hackman, and directed by Clint Eastwood.
LET ME EXPLAIN...
I have to admit, there was a fair amount of anticipation for me to see this movie. This was the first Clint Eastwood Western I had ever seen, and everyone I know who had already seen it always say things like "SUCH a great movie" at just the mention of its name.
However, when my wife and I saw another Western, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (rated #73 on AFI's list), we didn't like it. Or more appropriately, we didn't get it. We'd heard from so many people how great that film was, but we thought it was slow and we never really got into the plot. (If anybody can explain to me why that movie is so good, please leave a comment on here and tell me.) So with this being really only the 2nd Western I had ever seen after "Butch Cassidy", I was nervous I wouldn't like this one, either.
Fortunately, I did like this movie. Actually, I liked the movie right up until the ending. Then I loved it.
I really don't know how to discuss what I thought about "Unforgiven" without giving away anything to those who haven't already watched it. My wife and I spent a good half hour after it ended talking about what we both thought, and the crux for every topic - all the character development, every crucial scene or piece of dialogue, etc. - is dependent on seeing this movie in its entirety. It's like watching a mystery whodunnit: most of it might not make much sense or seem that great until you find out who the murderer is. Then, after the big revelation, you end up thinking the whole movie is great (at least, I do). "Unforgiven" isn't a mystery whodunnit, but it has that same dependency on the ending to make every other scene better. And it delivered. Trust me on that!
Why is this a "Top 100" Movie?
While being an admitted "Western novice", I felt watching "Unforgiven" educated me on what a good Western should be. Of course, not having a lot of viewing experience to compare it to in that genre, I can only say that I at least know that this particular Western is awesome. This movie also speaks volumes into the complexities of life and morals in the Old West, particularly regarding the act of killing a person (which most Old West examples I've seen portray killing as practically just another job, but this film rightly conveys it as a difficult and horrible act to commit). So I'm inclined to say it's a Top 100 movie because it's an epic Western, but in my opinion, it's just an awesome movie. It also won multiple awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman) in 1992.
Not really a complaint, but...
Through most of "Unforgiven", Clint Eastwood's acting seemed to be wooden and emotionless. But - once again - the ending changed all that for me. I ended up seeing his character as someone fighting emotion and his natural tendencies which - to me - explained his "wooden" demeanor. Plus, Clint Eastwood at the end was entirely believable, so this is just another example of how the ending made the entire movie - including Eastwood's acting - better.
LET ME SUM UP...
I would not call myself a fan of Western films by any means, but this movie was awesome. It's a fantastic example of how an ending can kick the rest of a movie up a notch just by being so good (Vertigo is another classic example of this). When the movie ended, I almost wanted to start watching it all over again to see just how much better I'd like the rest of it after knowing how it ends.
MY RATING: 9/10
TOTAL # OF FILMS WATCHED: 56