Nun Sara is on the run in Mexico and is saved from cowboys by Hogan, who is preparing for a future mission to capture a French fort. The pair become good friends, but Sara never does tell him the true reason behind her being outlawed.
A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
A Stranger rides into in the dusty mining town of Lago, where the townspeople are living in the shadow of a dark secret. After a shootout leaves the town's hired-gun protectors dead, the town's leaders petition the Stranger to stay and protect them from three ruthless outlaws who are soon to be released from prison. The three have their sights set on returning to Lago to wreak havoc and take care of some unfinished business. A series of events soon has the townspeople questioning whether siding with the Stranger was a wise idea as they quickly learn the price that they each must pay for his services. As the outlaws make their way back into Lago, they discover that the town is not exactly as they had left it, and waiting in the shadows is the Stranger, ready to expose the town's secret and serve up his own brand of justice. Written by
By the early 70s, actor Clint Eastwood's career had gone from being a mere extra to a well-known Hollywood star. Thanks to the success of Sergio Leone's immortal Westerns, Eastwood was noticed and soon he began to work in very good projects, with great results. Despite being a respected actor, nobody could have imagined that his talent as director was even superior to his acting skills, and after a fairly good debut in 1971 (the thriller "Play Misty for Me"), he crafted his first masterpiece in 1973 as a tribute to his own artistic mentors: the haunting western "High Plains Drifter".
"High Plains Drifter" is the story of a small mining town named "Lago" which is constantly troubled by outlaws and gunfighters. One day a stranger (Clint Eastwood) comes to town, and manages to kill three of those outlaws, gaining instant recognition and the offer of having whatever he wants from the town if he gets rid of the rest of the gang. He accepts but the town doesn't know that the mysterious stranger has a secret that will change their lives for ever.
The figure of the stranger comes to town to alter the fragile equilibrium of their existence, and soon the town's own demons return to haunt them. Eastwood's character is not exactly the hero we know, but a morally ambiguous cruel man that doesn't hesitate to use and abuse the townspeople and that clearly has an agenda of his own. Written by Ernest Tidyman, this is a dark tale that explores the ambiguous morality of people and the concepts of justice and revenge.
Eastwood's second directorial effort is a powerful movie that brilliantly combines the elements of Western with those of suspense and thriller. Due to his solid career in Westerns, Eastwood knows the genre's characteristics and pushes them forward to create something more, a movie beyond its genre. With brilliant camera-work, he goes from dream sequences out of a nightmare to day sequences in Leone's Spaghetti Western style. This is definitely a tribute to his mentors (In fact, he included a small reference to his directors in a cemetery scene).
The acting is remarkably good, with Eastwood himself leading the cast with great skill and his powerful presence. His character is a lot more complex than his "Man With No Name" and it could be said that he mixes in one character the characteristics of the three outlaws of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly". The underrated Billy Curtis is great as Mordecai, probably the only one in town who knows (and understands) the stranger's secret. The rest of the cast is very good and even those in small roles (such as William O'Connell as the barber) give performances of high quality. Apparently Eastwood's talent with people was there from the beginning.
Tidyman's story is very well-constructed, and can be seen from diverse points of view. Every character in town is well-defined no matter how long their screen-time is, and Eastwood makes the most of it. It's hard to find a flaw in this movie and I really can't praise it enough. It is a story that once that grabs you never lets you go.
"High Plains Drifter" is a must-see, not only for Western fans, it is a powerful story that is more than what it seems. Great camera-work, haunting images, terrific script, superb acting, all pieces fit to create Clint Eastwood's first masterpiece. This dark western sets the path of Eastwood's career as a director and one can see why is he one of the best directors alive. 10/10
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