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Very much of what this movie has done for its director, its genre, and the world in general has already been said. I won't spend much time in rehash, except to say that it's easy to become cynical as to whether commercial entertainment is still capable of approaching, even getting within the same emotional nation of real human tragedy. Then you see a movie like this and realize that tragedy -- meaning the creation of a symbolic human story to provoke emotion -- can still be created after all. Simply the most deeply despairing and horrifically beautiful movie of the 1990's,at least that I've ever seen. Simultaneously it shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with other westerns, with idealized plots and cornball heroism, and yet the power of this movie is magnified if you can compare it to archtypal westerns.
I'm not here to rehash the plot or the acting, I assume you've seen it. I wanted to speak against people who see it as politically correct, as anti-violence as a trend, or as self-betraying by the climactic scene. It's sad to watch people fail to understand that Clint Eastwood isn't repudiating his previous message when he exterminates the sheriff and everyone around him in the closing minutes. The entirety of the movie is about Eastwood's brief vision of a world with some meaningful concept of human worth and spiritual value, represented by his wife, dead before the story begins. The high point of Eastwood's character is the first time we see him, and from there he slides into damnation. Damnation is reflected by the sqaulor, amorality, and arbitrary injustice of the world around him, up to and including his enitre bounty hunt.
Eastwood's struggle to hold on to a self-vision, a memory of redemption, goes for the first two hours. When he chugs down the bottle of whiskey as the sun sets and goes of to avenge Morgan Freeman in the following scenes, Eastwood is as dead --physically reborn, viscerally alive, but spiritually dead -- as his victims, and he knows it, and is beyond caring. A movie about the relentless and brutal truth of human nature, and the fraility of attempts to transcend it. A movie of failure disguised as power, which destroys all the genre exercises which came before. And if you couldn't tell, deeply moving for me personally.
Repetition and arrogance (not to mention MTV) has left a lot of the angst-rock i used to love seeming hollow, and nowadays i judge every song not just for complexity and power, but for emotional openess, sincerity, and vocal intensity (if you don't know what that it's what bands as diverse as Counting Crows and AIC both have) Sunburn delivers. Fuel doesn't really break any revolutionary ground, so it's hard to define the elements that rise it above formula. The guitar/vocal sylistic synthesis is a large part. The dissonance and jagged edges of the riffs in "Bittersweet" match the frustrated regret in the voice. The arrogance of the crunch/squeal of the opening riff in "Ozone" hits exactly with the smirk of the vocal tone. The only guitar solo with a soaring, uplifting note comes from "Hideaway", which could have been written by Lynard Skynard, and again moves in sync with the whimsical "li-li-li" of the bridge that introduced it. Although the lyrics, which by the way are more lyrical and poetic than most of the modern shlock, are undoubtedly downbeat and depressing, the songs themselves move through a mix of emotional states in joyful precision. And the sadly overplayed-to-death "Shimmer" is even more beuatiful for the touch of distance and reserve in the singing. Sunburn has the raw power to lift me away from my surrounding world, but even more the open pain and intensity of the music doesn't leave me feeling cheap when i come down....Read more