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Retired, down-on-their-luck outlaws who pick up their guns one last time to collect a bounty offered by the vengeful prostitutes of the remote Wyoming town of Big Whiskey.
For more about Unforgiven and the Unforgiven Blu-ray release, see Unforgiven Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on August 8, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: David Webb Peoples
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Jaimz Woolvett, Saul Rubinek
» See full cast & crew
Unforgiven Blu-ray Review
Sporting some of the strongest characters in the western genre, Unforgiven takes on new intensity in Warner's BD-50
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, August 8, 2007
"I'm gonna hurt you real bad and not gentle like before." The line, delivered by Gene Hackman in his Oscar-winning performance as Sheriff Little Bill Daggett, conveys a heightened sense of urgency in the Blu-ray version of Unforgiven. Maybe it is a subtle change in expression or almost imperceptible nod or something else lost in previous versions. But whatever it is makes the Blu-ray the best vehicle for the colorful characters of arguably the finest western of the last 30 years.
Most westerns explore two concepts: 1) might makes right and 2) you can't escape who you are. Unforgiven merges the two into a plot that exposes the brutal lawlessness of the frontier and shows that wickedness and justice, crime and punishment are relative and not always meted out by the appropriate authority. With rich symbolism--Little Bill's roof leaks with holes as big as the holes in his application of the law--and characters so strong they take on mythic qualities, Unforgiven won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1992.
Most of that success is attributable to Clint Eastwood, who secured Unforgiven yet another Oscar as Best Director. He also handles the lead role of William Munny. Eastwood makes this role work so well, in part, because he uses it to draw his own gunslinger film career to a close. At several points in the film, William Munny answers, "I ain't like that anymore" to questions about his murderous past. He delivers the line as if trying harder to convince himself than his comrades. The fact that audiences around the world saw Eastwood in shoot 'em up western roles since the '60s lends credence and authenticity to his portrayal of Munny, even beyond the understated delivery and menacing facial expressions that became Eastwood's trademarks. Munny's partner, Ned (Morgan Freeman) provides the strongest link to the past--a past Munny thinks he's left behind.
Unforgiven Blu-ray, Video Quality
The cinematography of Unforgiven is also Oscar-worthy and the BD shows the beautiful scenery and rugged characters in tremendous detail and clarity. As Munny and Ned ride their horses across the great plains, one marvels at the depth of the picture and the resolution. Each blade of grass seems to come alive. The mountains in the distance are clearly defined, with solid hues and snowy caps that stand majestically before the blue sky.
The characters' faces have remarkable presence. One can see not just the weathered, rugged visage of English Bob (Richard Harris), but the playful light in his eyes. His penchant for danger and gunplay and his disdain for Americans is communicated all the more effectively with 1080p. Blu-ray articulates not just the nuts and bolts of film, framerates and lines of resolution, but the magic of the actors, their facial expressions, body language and movement.
Even the darker scenes, with more visible film grain, have an immediacy and palpability that puts you directly in the action. When Munny catches a fever from the rain and cold and finds himself alone at a table in Skinny's bar, watch the way his face emerges from the shadows into the dim light. The detail remains very sharp, whether in shadow or light. Contrast and definition are excellent. Even in Munny's drab garb, the stitching and fabric have a vividness and realism that far surpasses DVD.
Unforgiven Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The sound quality is the only area where Unforgiven does not rise to Blu-ray standards. In fact, the BD includes only Dolby Digital audio, same as the DVD. Warner Home Video needs to show greater commitment to deliver not just the video advantages of Blu-ray, but the audio advantages as well. LPCM content done right would have pushed the overall rating of this BD to 10, but the DD holds it back.
The lack of LPCM is not a deal breaker and in fact sources tell me the DD is improved over the stereo of the theatrical release. Voices are resolved clearly and authoratively, but the overall soundstage reminds me of a veneer that is ready to crack and break off at any moment. The depth and presence I have grown accustomed to in LPCM audio content from reference-quality BDs like Pirates I is lacking, although that is not a fair point of reference. Listen to the rain storm. The sound of water and thunder has a digital sheen to it, an edge that on higher quality Blu-ray audio would sound deeper, more resonant and more realistic.
Unforgiven Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The extra featurettes included on the Blu-ray are interesting. A "making of" documentary featuring Richard Shickel yields new insight on the film from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Shickel also ties the story into context of what really happened in frontier towns. Other supplements are not as engaging. Eastwood: A Star, while filmed during the time Unforgiven was in production, delivers nothing new. All on Accounta Pullin' a Trigger is a 2002 documentary included on Warner's DVD release. It showcases relevant comments from the cast and screenwriter David Webb Peoples, albeit not in high definition. A "making of" documentary featuring Richard Shickel yields new insight on the film from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Shickel also ties the story into context of what really happened in frontier towns.
Unforgiven Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The appeal of Unforgiven lies in its ability to cut through the machismo of the genre and explore morality on many levels. In a world of horses and whores, lawmen and outlaws, cowboys and indians, the lines aren't always drawn so clearly as westerns pretend. Unforgiven introduces us to a variety of characters, each more viscious then the next. Each time we think we are watching the strongest gunfighter, someone comes along to prove us wrong.
A great irony is on display throughout the film. The hero is an anti-hero who can barely mount a horse or shoot straight when the story begins. He is a murderer who found solace in a wife and kids, was forgiven for his sins, escaped his past for a time. All the western cliches failed during the movie. Even attempts to use a bottle in a bar fight--the oldest tricks wouldn't work. And in the end, the anti-hero was un-forgiven for his past. "It's a hell of a thing killing a man," Munny says, gazing off into the distance. "You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have." Yet even this acknowledgement doesn't stop him from meting out his own brand of justice.
Previous versions of this film on DVD were not ideal. One reissue even split Unforgiven over two discs. The transfer onto Blu-ray is stunning, with almost no digital artifacts. As Little Bill might say, Blu-ray's imagery and power hit real hard and not gentle like the DVD.
Unforgiven: Other Editions
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