In 1960, MGM released a western with a pretty standard storyline with The Unforgiven. The main thing that sets this western apart from others of its ilk are the actors involved, mainly Burt Lancaster and the odd, but wonderful choice of Audrey Hepburn – not known for filming such roles. All in all, it turned out to be a captivating and enjoyable film.
The story is about a family of which Lancaster and Hepburn are a brother and sister of a family that lives day to day where the only worry is the simple things that life brings along. During the film, they run into trouble with some Native Americans and it soon comes to the surface that Hepburn’s character Rachel, may not be all that she seems. Action, gunfights, dancing and racism ensue.
When this film was released, the movie business had been churning out westerns for nearly forty years. Suffice it to say, almost every possible story you could tell in the genre had been told by this point. Yes, some original westerns would still rear their head in the years to come, but for the majority, most were almost paint by number. To offset this, it helped to have a good script, a good director in the form of John Huston and great actors – all of which this film contained.
Hepburn always beautiful and supremely talented was quite believable in her role playing the young and unwed sister. Lancaster as well, rugged and coming home after sometime away, played his part to perfection as he so often did. It almost seems like an odd pairing as Hepburn always seems so demure while Lancaster is all charisma and larger than life. The rest of the cast is capable, but the focus was obviously on the aforementioned two. John Huston did a fine job directing the film, toeing the line between making a standard tale and one that tries to put across a message.
The Unforgiven, while not standing out as the pinnacle of the genre, is an entertaining and enjoyable film that any movie going fan will enjoy whether you like westerns or not. Audrey Hepburn, who broke her back while filming the movie, managed to complete it after some time off and the audience would never be able to tell that she had done so. Lancaster puts in his usual five-star performance and if for nothing else, it is worth watching for their onscreen chemistry.
4 out of 5