209 - High Noon (1952)

Played out in real time, High Noon tells the story of a man unwilling to run from a fight.

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is the long serving sheriff of Hadleyville. On the day of his wedding to Amy (Grace Kelly), a quaker and a pacifist, he learns of the forthcoming return of Frank Miller (Ian McDonald) on the high noon train - a man whom Kane had sentenced to hanging, but who had escaped on a legal technicality.

The townsfolk encourage Kane to escape with his bride while he still can, but Kane insists on staying. As he tries to recruit deputies for his cause, however, he finds himself increasingly isolated as the clock ticks down to high noon.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Cowboys films increasingly find themselves on the top 500 for varying reasons. Obviously, there are a lot of Westerns, so some of them are at least destined for greatness, but it is often because they have something quirky about them that places them in the annals of movie history.

While Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western trilogy brought a whole new outlook on the ageing genre, High Noon was proving that something radical was already happening 20 years previously in order to make it stand out from the crowd. The decision was made to shoot the story High Noon entirely in pseudo real time.

The fact that the story takes place almost while you are watching it is not just a gimmick though. We, as the audience feel Kane's excitement at marriage turn slowly into foolish bravery as he realises he stand alone against the whole town. We live and understand his fear.

Equally, just because the film's timeline takes place over a couple of hours (cleverly reiterated by the constant references to clocks in the film), it doesn't lack in the depth of storyline. There are so many characters it can become confusing at times, but stay with it and you'll learn much about Kane's back story as it is cleverly remissed upon by various other townsfolk.

Of course while Gary Cooper is off attempting to be the stereotypical American hero, it is easy to forget about his new bride who sees little of the bravery in her new husband and more of his arrogant stupidity. Grace Kelly brings about more than just elegance to the dusty streets of Hadleyville. She also brings a sense of reality - that Kane's negligence to his wife potentially offsets any chance of him having a happy ending to the story.

Elements of High Noon's final showdown has often attempted to be repeated in many films - even Sergio Leone used a solitary hero in A Fistful Of Dollars - but none can come close to truly portraying their fear for the protagonist.