I just watched this film for the first time and it wasn't long before I started to feel like the film was making a political statement. If so, it certainly wouldn't be the first time that's been done. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish a plot device from a political opinion, but what got me here was that we have our protagonist, Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper), who should be leaving on his Honeymoon, but chooses to stay and face a just-released killer, but despite his best efforts, is unable to get any townsfolk to help him out. It's the whole "stand up for the right thing" attitude that seems to tip the film's motivations.
Perhaps it was the recent (American) election, but the first thing that popped into my mind was a Republican mindset. The killer "should have been hanged" but was let off by those soft-on-crime folk in the capital. There's the assumption that this man would not have been rehabilitated (which, honestly, did they even have that word at the time?) And then, Gary Cooper's dour demeanor and hard-line stance seem in keeping was a particular individualist nature. Finally, when Cooper's Quaker (and therefore Pacifist) wife ends up shooting one of the bad guys in the back, isn't that saying something about the use of force in the world? (contrast with Cooper's appearance in Sargeant York).
Then I looked into the history of the film and see that it was considered an anti-HUAC statement. Certainly the time (1952) was right, and writer Carl Foreman was blacklisted. But only with a fairly broad view can I see that in here, primarily in the attempts of the townspeople to "cooperate" with the wrong, but dangerous, force coming to town.
As a political film, I'd really have to call High Noon mediocre at best. Standing up for one's beliefs is a fairly generic theme, and the setup of the plot is black and white enough there's no real room for deep political ideas. And I don't think the film was actually meant as any great statement, but more along the lines of an "inspired by" story, more concerned with entertainment value.
Where High Noon excels is with Cooper's Will Kane and his resilience in the face of excuse after excuse, one equivocation after another. It's easy to feel for both Kane and the individual townspeople (well, not quite all of them). It's a tough situation, and it brings out interesting aspects of these different personalities.
The climax of the film is fairly quick and perfunctory. The story is wrapped up nicely and appropriately, but I'm torn. It seems easy, but I cannot imagine one thing I would do to change what's on the screen, so I can't complain.
I feel like High Noon is a tad overrated, but does belong on any list of must-see westerns. It's not only effective, but also was an important step in the evolution of the western form, laying ground for exploring more ambiguous notions of morality.
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