Friday, January 20, 2012

#70 Movies on AFI's Top 100 List: High Noon

There are a lot of Westerns on the AFI's Top 100 List. Usually not my favorite kind of movie, but the first one that I watched (Stagecoach) was so good that I chose another one to watch this past week: #33 on the list, High Noon. It also helped that it was a weeknight and High Noon is only 120 minutes long, much shorter than most of the other movies I have to watch.

This was definitely the kind of old fashioned Western that I picture in my head whenever anyone talks about Westerns. One lone hero stands up to a gang of bad guys, people are too scared to help him but he can't run, and then meet on the street at high noon for a show down!!!

But High Noon is more complex than that simple story, and that's what made it both entertaining and worth watching. There's Sheriff Will Kane, our lone hero, and plenty of cowardly townsfolk who urge him to run and refuse to stand up and fight against Frank Miller, the leader of the gang who's coming back into town to kill Kane after the "Northerners" decided not to convict him of the charges upon which he'd been arrested. But today isn't just any normal day in Sheriff Kane's life, it's his wedding day and the day that he vowed to his Quaker bride that he'd put down his gun and lead a peaceful life.

Amy has seen plenty of killing in her day, she witnessed her father and brother being murdered, and she doesn't want anything to do with a man who is going to put his life in danger.

I had very mixed feelings about Amy. On one hand, I wanted her to stand by her man and support him, not knock him down even lower. Instead, she's prepared to desert her husband, because he wants to go back and fight and stop Frank Miller from turning the town back into a terrible place to live. But, on the other hand, I had to admire her for standing up for her beliefs the way that she did. It wasn't just that she was making a stand against violence, she dared to ask the question, "Why should I be here for you when what you're doing could lead to you not being here for me?" She doesn't just meekly take Kane's attitude that "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." Nope. Amy knows she's worth more than that. She's worth more than a husband who's going to risk his life on the very day that he gets married, who's going to put himself in harm's way and leave her a grieving widow without a care of what will happen to her when he's gone.

By the end of the movie, I had turned into an Amy-admirer. I loved that she stood up for herself in a calm, decisive and stubborn manner. Best of all was when, at the very last moment, even though Will didn't deserve it since he was about to basically commit suicide by facing Frank and the gang, she came back. And she didn't just support him, she shot a man for him and saved his life. Without Amy, Sheriff Will Kane would've been a very dead martyr instead of a live cowboy hero.

The acting in this movie is great. Gary Cooper as Will Kane excels, especially as the townsmen around him fall back in terror and he realizes he's going to be facing the bad guys alone. I was torn between cheering him on, because his actions were heroic, and being furious at him for Amy's sake. Mostly I cheered him on though, because I couldn't help it. He's so brave, so good and so dutiful, so willing to sacrifice himself to his own beliefs that I couldn't hold it against him that he was sacrificing the future that Amy had planned on too.

There's a lot more to this movie, lots of side stories and twists, and I enjoyed every minute of it. This was much more than a simple lone cowboy faces the big bad gang story. Will Kane stood up for what he knew to be right, when no one else would and at the risk of his own life. Too bad we don't have more cowboys like that today!

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