I heard so much about this movie, so much, that one day I decided to take a stab and buy it. Thatís right, I bought it, and had this movie not been to my liking it wouldíve been a waste of money, but it wasnít. It was fucking fantastic. Made during the intense political reign of Senator Joe McCarthy and his dreaded House Of Un-American Activities, this film became one of the most controversial films ever made. Critics saw it as the ultimate Anti-Western, because of the lack of pretty settings, endless action, good guys with white hats, bad boys with black hats, and no invading crazy Indians. Others, like director Howard Hawks and, most notably, John Wayne, saw this film as the ultimate Anti-American film, since it threw the patriotic slogan ďUnited We StandĒ right into the toilet, and brought out shocking similarities of how would you end up if all your friends deserted you to become ďfriendly witnessesĒ against you during the height of the ďCommunist Witch Hunt.Ē This film is all this, and all you want it to be, plus more.Itís 10:40AM in the town of Hadleyville, aged Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is finally tying the knot with his wife, beautiful young Quaker girl Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), and is set to retire from his job and live in peace with Amy as a store salesman in a nearby town. But soon after the marriage is complete, he receives a telegram from the railway station, in which he finds out that Frank Miller (Ian McDonald), a noteworthy outlaw whom Kane had arrested a long time ago, has been released from prison and is coming to town at high noon with his brother and two henchmen (One of them being a young Lee Van Cleef) to kill him. Will is very respected by the townspeople since he spent most of his life cleaning up the city to become again prosperous, but when this news arrives, fear and self-interests plagues everyone and soon, they start deserting Will when he needs them the most this time. Will couldíve simply grabbed his shit and his wife and leave town, but his own conscience tells him not to, since he wonít allow Frank to destroy what he built with his own hands. As the minutes tick on by, nearing high noon, Will realizes in disbelief heís alone on this one, and that no one will risk joining him to defend the town, and even his wife leaves him because he doesnít want to see him killed. Convinced that no one will help him, Kane will have to confront his fears and prove his courage as he goes alone against Frank and his men.
"One Of The Greatest Westerns Ever Made"
Hardcore critics will bash this film for being predictable, too boring and too uninteresting to watch, and with no action until the end. Depends on how you look at it. If youíre seriously expecting same old action from a typical western, youíll be seriously disappointed, but this film proves though, that it can be as suspenseful as any movie no matter how predictable it is. Ok, so itís predictable, itís a textbook example of good vs. evil, and if youíre a fan of westerns you know that the good guy will always win and the bad guy will end up dead. But seriously, when that time comes, youíll be seriously on the edge of your seat due to the outcome of events that lead to the climax, thanks to the ever present countdown from the clock, the music (which plays also an important factor in the movieís atmosphere of suspense), and the ever striking metaphoric shot of the camera on-looking the railroad towards the horizon, where evil will soon come. But itís also suspenseful since were seeing the last minutes of this manís life and were sitting there, waiting for the inevitable to come. The clock ticks on the minutes and soon you see that no one will help Will and the odds are that heíll end up dead, the camera closes up on Willís face and you can see his fear, and his anguish. Itís as riveting as watching a death row inmate in his last hour of life before his death sentence, and when the hour comes, your hope is almost null and you sit there petrified, waiting for the moment to strike. That my friends, is realism caught in at its most severe, and realism is what makes this film work. The hero is no superhuman, he knows heís going to die, he fears that death will visit him soon enough, but his courage and wit is what pushes him on to prove the cowardice of the people that turned his back on him, and to show who stands ďa better man.Ē Thatís filmmaking at its best.
Fred Zinnemannís direction is flawless, he adds every element of realism into this movie, and always focuses on the metaphors of the clock, the railroad tracks, and Will Kane and his fear. The cinematography is perfect, and the music plays probably one of the most important factors in influencing the filmís atmosphere of suspense. The editing is also great, and not one scene is there without a purpose. The song, sung in a very odd way by Rex Ritter, soon became a fast favorite of mine, and is played from time to time throughout the movie, which may at times annoy some, but I loved it, and it deserves the Oscar that it won, as well as the editing and the rest of the music score. The script, written by soon-to-be blacklisted Carl Foreman (The Guns Of Navarone) is also flawless. Thanks to these elements, itís proven once more that filmmaking is an art, and not just for the sake of pure entertainment.
The performances are fantastic. Gary Cooper has always being seen as somewhat of a non-actor, but the trick is that he never gives out more than what he should, and his emotions are always timed and on the right frame of mind. When the film was being made, Cooper was going through a lot of things, plus some internal injuries (bruised hip, back pains, and stomach ulcers), and you can see he was in pain for most of the movie, but when the suspense is kicking in, youíll never notice it, hence his gestures add more to the realism of his character. He deserves that Oscar. Grace Kelly is also great in her first starring role, and some people will find the marriage in the film a little bit off-key, since Kelly was younger to Cooper, but it all works fine in the end. The rest of the cast was also great, including a then-young Lloyd Bridges who plays an arrogant wannabe who craves Willís Sheriffís badge, you can tell he was a star in the making.In the end, this film deserves its place as a milestone in film history. Arguably one of the greatest westerns ever made, this film is recommended for every fan of this genre as well as to every fan of film. Rarely there comes a film where itís entertaining and portrays an art form, a unique visual by the director who created it, and will always be debated for years to come. See it.
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originally posted: 10/09/02 10:51:46