It’s roughly 25 years since Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, Unforgiven, was first release. And even then it was from a script that he acquired personally years prior, something he placed in a drawer and waited for the right time to actually move on. He took care of the movie, for sure; and also took care to oversee the 4K remaster of it for both Blu-Ray formats. You can get your hands on Warners’ release now.
Eastwood’s masterpiece has aged well and watching it for the 200th time is nothing but pure joy. His haggard anti hero and failed pig farmer Will Munny is a figurative bookend to the ghosts of his career past, from Joe Kidd to Josey Wales. Munny is drawn reluctantly to assassinate a pair of cowboys who have cut up a whore in the town of Big Whiskey, through a masterful orchestra of exposition, quiet yet remarkable visuals and career-best acting from both Eastwood and Gene Hackman.
What helps to make this movie timeless and perfect is that just Will Munny is not a black and white good guy, neither is Little Bill and black and white bad guy. They’re both the same men in many ways, where Munny is now a careworn and unwilling assassin, the look of annoyance and regret can also be found on Bill’s face every time the whores and cowboys fuck up. He can be mean, but, clearly, all he wants to do is marvel at his newly built, crooked, house.
It’s things like that you find in a movie that is so easy to return to over and over. Some may disagree, but I find Unforgiven to be Eastwood’s very best western. And I’m glad he didn’t do something stupid like try to make another.
This movie was shot on 35mm film with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has undergone a 4K remaster that has been approved by Eastwood himself. This goes for both the 1080p and 4K versions, which are both found in this release. Also, unless I’m mistaken, the only place the new 1080p version can be found currently is with this release, so if you’re after it you might as well get this one with future proofing in mind.
I found this UHD release to be something of a mixed bag. At the beginning, when Bill is threatening to whip the cowboys at the whorehouse, the crispness and natural colours stand head and shoulders above the previous releases. This kind of look and ‘feel’ is repeated often throughout the movie, with many exterior shots having a new sense of depth. For example, the scared townspeople looking on in the background as Bill beats up English Bob stand out in their own right, despite being a fair distance away.
Other scenes though look worn and somewhat lazy, soft even. Some even look mediocre by ‘HD’ standards. One of the most powerful shots in the movie, the closeup of Munny’s face, etched in quiet anguish and he kills ‘Davey Boy’ outside, is somewhat disappointing.
But there shouldn’t be any mistake, the new remaster is beautiful and to highlight the point, Warners had no problem releasing the 1080p version of it in the same case. Clearly, the UHD version is superior. The new DTS-HD soundtrack is also superb, I mean I’m even convinced that you can now hear things that you didn’t before even if they’re small – like piano music playing in the background in another building up the street.
There are four documentaries on the second disc. Including a nearly two hour documentary Eastwood on Eastwood, directed by Schickel and narrated by John Cusack. Also in a nice touch they’ve thrown in an episode of Maverick (Duel at Sundown), which also featured Eastwood. You can also expect the smaller featurettes and dutiful trailer, with commentary on both discs.