Martin: People gotta talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it. Maybe because down deep they don’t care. They just don’t care.
R: Watching this I kept thinking of 12 Angry Men for some reason; I guess because they’re both small scale, simple stories, that are executed almost perfectly. They’re definitely both great examples of the ‘less is more’ school of storytelling.
F: I think Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda are similar kinds of actors too – I can easily see Fonda in this, and Cooper in 12 Angry Men. But I agree and it’s telling that most of this film is essentially waiting for the ending but still manages to be tense and gripping. And I love the real time aspect and the shots of the clocks as we get closer to noon.
R: The way events unfold almost entirely in real time is another way in which the film keeps it simple, and is super effective. Approaching this film knowing it was a big influence on the tv show 24 I expected it to feel more gimmicky, but it’s really not. Those repeated glances at the clock as we approach the showdown really help ramp up the tension. Where this differs from 12 Angry Men is in its pessimism about human nature. I absolutely love the low-key untriumphiant ending, which rams home the film’s message much better than any grand closing speech could.
F: This film isn’t about the final shootout at all. Much more about his efforts to recruit people to help him and failing. But he doesn’t run and that’s a fairly powerful message I think.
R: Yes, although I wouldn’t say as powerful as the message that people are generally lazy cowards! Is this the highest placed Western on the list? Does it deserve to be?
F: No The Searchers is at number 12, which I haven’t seen, but I imagine I won’t like as much as this. I like this because although Westerns are not my preferred genre, the story is strong and doesn’t necessarily need to be set in the Western era (if that makes sense!)
R: It totally does. This isn’t a film about being a cowboy, it’s a film about wrestling with your responsibilities and doing the right thing when the right thing isn’t the easy thing. Truly universal, timeless stuff.
F: I really like the female characters in this. They are their own characters with their own personalities and not just there to support the men. Very untypical of a western!
Is it worthy?
R: Now officially my favourite Western. Got to be.
F: Yes it’s excellent!