Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 313: High Noon (1952 ) - Rank 4.5/5


I've seen this film once before, but it's probably been close to a decade since I last watched it, so save the general premise and the resolution, much of it had been long forgotten by me. I selected it as an entry with my film club at school, because it led us to a post-film discussion regarding real-time editing. Upon rewatching the film, I was surprised with the degree of tension that Fred Zinnemann manages to maintain throughout a solid eighty minutes. For those unfamiliar with the premise, the film begins at twenty minutes until eleven on the morning that Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is lying down his badge and taking a new wife. As the wedding ceremony ends, he learns that gunman Frank Miller has been released from prison and is headed to town on the noon train with revenge in mind. Over the next hour, the camera follows Kane as he struggles to find someone, anyone, who will help him defend the town he fought so hard to bring peace to.

The plight of Cooper's Kane is positively heart-wrenching. Despite all he's done for the benefit of the town and its peoples, no one has the gumption to stand by his side, falling prey to cowardice or petty dismissal instead. The overall resolution of all the townsfolk is that it would be best if Kane fled and let Miller seize control over the town once more. The ticking clock motif makes Kane's struggle all the more frantic, yet the veteran marshal never speeds up his stride. It's easy to see how this became the iconic role that many remember Cooper for.

One delightful element I'd forgotten was the bevy of character actors that are utilized in the film. Harry Morgan, Thomas Mitchell and Lon Chaney Jr. play just a few of the let-downs that Kane comes to grips with. Lloyd Bridges excels as Kane's selfish and headstrong deputy and Grace Kelly lights up the screen as his new bride. My one and only criticism is I found the repetition of Tex Ritter's "Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin'" a little trying after the first half hour, but otherwise, a solid film that set a new standard for both Westerns as well as film editing.

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