In "Unforgiven", Clint Eastwood, writer David Webb Peoples ("Blade Runner", "12 Monkeys"), and cinematographer Jack Green ("Bird", "Twister") collaborate to craft a simple story that shines a light on the realities of the Wild West that have usually been obscured by the fog of sensationalistic written accounts. It's a spare story, set in a spare environment that features hardened people struggling to forge a life in a hardened land. As such, it depicts a Wild West completely different than that portrayed in the dime novels and seedy publications popular in The East in the late 19th century. And it's great.
"Unforgiven" also serves as a reminder that heroes can emerge from distasteful histories, dotted with ruthless and even murderous episodes. In this story, the heroes are not seeking atonement, nor are they governed by forces out of the their control. They just are...because of what they do, not necessarily because of what they want. There also must be villains in any morality play. The villains featured here are those who cannot envision themselves existing outside of their pasts. For these men, it's less about notoriety itself than defending a notorious legend. This can be a lesson to any of us who wish for a fresh start, but still cling to a fragile past.
The HDR treatment of the film enhances every aspect of the photography's beauty: The sunset- and moon-lit prairie. The randomly flickering light of fading campfires. Candlelit, shadowy interiors. Bright midday street scenes. And the haunting, torch-lit spectre of Ned's corpse on display outside the saloon.
The lossless 5.1 surround audio enhances the film's atmospherics, especially the more raucous scenes. But its crystal clear rendering of dialog is the real "music" to our ears, creating intimacy in the middle of expansive surroundings and depth in confined spaces.
If you've never seen this film, other than perhaps on cable TV, you absolutely must experience it in 4K HDR. Even if you have seen it on Blu-ray, the clarity, depth of color, and shadow detail of this version will almost make it seem like a different film altogether. Different in the best possible ways.
1992 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing
#68 in American Film Institute's top 100 films of all time
#30 in the Writers Guild of America's greatest scripts of all time