Unforgiven is the Western to end all Westerns. As of 1992, Unforgiven is the last of only three Westerns to win Best Picture. And it was only 2 years after the previous winner Dances with Wolves. While not the greatest Western ever made, Unforgiven does stand out with Oscar winning Film Editing and beautifully shot cinematography. Director, producer, and actor Clint Eastwood intended Unforgiven to be a tribute to filmmakers like Sergio Leone or Don Siegel. Eastwood claimed it would be his final Western, but he’s too synonymous with the genre. Unforgiven is actually a Revisionist Western that deconstructs the often glamorized Old West.
Eastwood won 2 Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, but not Best Actor. He was only nominated for playing old retired gunslinger William Munny. Eastwood teams up with Morgan Freeman for the first, but not the last time. Freeman plays Munny’s equally old gunslinger partner Ned Logan. Although they were feared in their time, Munny is a rusty pig farming father who gave up killing for his deceased wife and Logan lives a quiet life with his Native American wife. They’re driven to kill again when prostitutes put a $1,000 bounty on the men who cut up one of their girls. It’s a very simple plot, but Unforgiven is a deep and often depressing examination of trauma that’s far from black & white. Frances Fisher and Anna Thomson both play hookers with hearts of gold.
Newcomer Jaimz Woolvett joins the aging gunslingers as the eager young Schofield Kid who quickly realizes killing isn’t as noble as he thinks it is. Richard Harris is memorable as potential bounty collector English Bob. Saul Rubinek plays his biographer who (like the audience) discovers how exaggerated the life of a cowboy truly is. The biggest scene stealer ended up being Gene Hackman as the sadistic and unpredictable Sheriff “Little” Bill Daggett. A role that won Hackman his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Though they deal with severe rainstorms and gun fights, Unforgiven subverts expectations by making the outlaws easy to kill and leading to an inevitable path of self-destruction. Unforgiven is unforgivably harsh with a great unforgiving sense of realism.