As a precursor to our film project, 12 Western Feature-Length Films in 12 Months, which Running Wild Films and 5J Media will start producing in 2016, director Travis Mills shares his thoughts on films from the genre as he studies Westerns in preparation for our own. Follow the project here on Facebook
This series of short blogs is titled “Western Impressions”.
This time watching Eastwood’s heralded western I was struck by two things: 1. that regardless of my feelings that he is the most overrated director in America, this film is still a great western. 2. That of all his westerns, it bares the least resemblance to Sergio Leone’s work. Ironic then that he thanks Leone, along with Don Siegel at the end, but perhaps that tribute is no direct comment on the film’s style. However it is interesting that all of his previous westerns did maintain an alliance to the spaghetti western and this divorces itself entirely (which I feel makes the movie succeed). It’s impossible to give sole credit to one person for making a good movie but I see Unforgiven‘s strength in the writing. It is David Peoples’ script which stands out to me, the dialog and characters so rich. Eastwood and the other actors, mostly Hackman, fill the screenplay out wonderfully. But the film loses something for me in the final shootout in the tavern. When Eastwood mercilessly kills the owner of the establishment (Skinny I believe is his character’s name), that falls perfectly in line with the rest of this bleak film. What comes after doesn’t: the gun jamming, the killing of almost every man, who cannot hit Eastwood to save their lives, and the final moment with Hackman. Suddenly Eastwood’s affection for Hollywood antics takes over and ruins (for me) what may have been one of the coldest, bleakest, most “real” westerns ever.
Lasting impression: the scene where Hackman offers Harris the gun in jail. It is some of the best acting of Hackman’s incredible career.