Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Jaimz Woolvett (in his first feature film), Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Anne Levine
Director: Clint Eastwood
Summary: A Retired old West gunslinger reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his partner and a young man.
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Eastwood), Supporting Actor (Hackman)*, Original Screenplay, Sound, Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing*
This movie, like the many post-1950s Westerns, is a deconstruction of the genre-its main goal being to try and de-romanticize “the gunslinger” by showing how monstrous someone who kills for a living must actually be. Here, the depictions of death and violence carry a great deal of weight, showing not only the effect it has on the victim, but also on the person who kills as well and how it eats away at your soul. Basically, the film’s statement is that the man of real heroism and greatness is the one who is able to somehow find a way to leave a life of violence for a peaceful one, not the gunslinger who can take out five men in a shootout.
I can’t really imagine anyone else in the lead (except for John Wayne if this was made in a different era), as Eastwood’s history naturally imparts on the audience a feeling to the character-you can imagine William Munny here as a sort of older, wiser version of The Man with No Name. In addition, Gene Hackman is great as the sadistic Little Bill and he deservedly won a second Academy Award (after The French Connection) for the film. While it’s not my favorite Western of all-time, it’s truly one of the greats of the genre and a perfect send-off for Eastwood’s career as a Western star.