Clint Eastwood received his first acting nomination for portraying William Munny in Unforgiven.
Clint Eastwood seems like the only person who could really portray William Munny. One of the reasons for this is because of the previous films Eastwood made in the western genre, particularly as the man with no name in Sergio Leone's westerns. This being Eastwood's last western as well always gives this performance, and character an extra layer, that no other actor could have been able to do in this role.
William Munny is shown first on an isolated pig farm, which William Munny is quite clearly not very good at. Eastwood though although he says very little, already suggests the long brutal life of the character, as well as his the reformed nature of his life, presenting Munny in a rather simple fashion, as a simple man trying his hardest do his work, although still having the right haunted quality as well, which works quite effectively, since he changes quite distinctly from the beginning than to the end of the film.
After joining with a young hot headed would be bounty hunter The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), as well as his old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). In these scenes of travel it is Munny is consistently asked by the Kid about his time as a killer. Eastwood reactions are always on the mark as in Eastwood style he underplays his emotions but still most certainly carries them in subtle fashions through his face, which has Munny past written all over it.
One of Eastwood's biggest challenges come when Munny is struck with sickness from being in the rain, as well as a savage beating from the evil Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Eastwood has to show Munny's delusion with fever. This is quite a challenge, but Eastwood manages to pull it off well, without forcing the pain of Munny's past, but making it abundantly clear. Many actors could have easily overacted this scene, but Eastwood portrays it just the right way.
Munny later finally comes back to killing, but he portrays this exceedingly well because he really does not indicate a great change for Munny yet. Munny compassionately kills the first man, well as compassionately as one can kill a person in that way I suppose, but Eastwood does show a small pain from killing again, but not a enormous one, clearly presenting that Munny has been doing for so long, and so many times, it can never effect past a certian point.
The scene that shows this is his odd not really comfort with the Kid, after the Kid has killed a man for the first time, but creating an understanding of what he did, and what Munny has done time after time. Eastwood does not have a lot of dialogue in this scene, but any more from him could have weakened the scene, because Eastwood shows all the true emotion of killing in his eyes.
Munny though finally breaks out back completely into his old self at the end of the film when he finally confronts Little Bill and his deputies for what they have done. Eastwood's snap back into this completely violent, and revenge driven man is truly freighting, especially due to the contrast of his opening moments. Eastwood transformation is completely believable because of his quite indications throughout the film, and Munny's final scene is a truly powerful, and completely chilling in this striking performance. Eastwood knew of his own cinematic history, and his own abilities as well as limits as an actor, to create a great performance here, one that I think really requires repeat viewings to truly appreciate.