High Noon is not your typical Western. Gunfights are kept to a minimum. Vigilantes and vagabonds, while certainly present, do not dominate the film. There are no robberies, no chases on horseback. In fact, a shot isn't fired for 90% of the movie. So what is High Noon then?
The Hardest Road
High Noon is about holding to what you believe and know is right, no matter what other people may tell you. More than just about any other movie, High Noon illustrates how difficult it is to follow the path that you believe is true and moral. It follows the character of Will Kane, a recently retired marshal of a typical dusty old western town. Just married, Kane is informed as he is about to leave that one of the men that he put away has been released and is taking a train back to town to exact vengeance upon him. Though encouraged to leave, to enjoy his marriage, and to put this problem behind him, Kane recognizes that the right thing to do is to stay and defend the town once again.
However, this is nowhere near as easy as it may seem. It swiftly becomes clear that not everyone wants to back him on this. His wife struggles to convince him to forget about it because it is no longer his problem. His former deputy wants to hold the position of marshal himself and is jealous that Kane has returned, even though it is to do the right thing. As for the townspeople, they run the gamut of opinions on the matter. Some are cynical and believe that one can never successfully fight crime, making the whole effort to face the outlaw and his men pointless and suicidal. Some are pragmatic and suggest that, if Kane left, that there would be no confrontation and that town life would go on peacefully. Others are optimistic and determined to help, but hesitate when it becomes clear that nobody else is going to back Kane. Thus Kane's belief that he must face up to the outlaws is challenged at every turn. He is faced with the choice: when nobody else will help, do I give in or do I stand up for what I believe in, no matter the cost.
Reading Between the Lines
Aside from the gripping tale of one man trying to hold true to what he believes in, High Noon also has a history of controversy and argument over what the movie means on a metafictional basis. I, myself, first saw this movie in my senior thesis class years ago; my professor explained to the class how the differing attitudes and perspectives of the townsfolk were comparable to the different attitudes of appeasement that faced men like Churchill (Will Kane) who sought to wake people up to the threat of Adolf Hitler (the outlaw) before World War II. Upon further investigation, I also found that the screenplay was written as an allegory of the failure of intellectuals to fight McCarthyism, the Red Scare that arose over Soviet Communism during the 1950s.
On top of this, people have independently come up with ideas that the events of the film are applicable to the events of the Cold War, the Korean War, the blacklisting of members of Hollywood during the 1950s, and much more. High Noon has been requested for viewing by American presidents more than any other film. These facts should speak to how powerful and intriguing the film is. Do not be turned off by its black and white, old school depiction. High Noon is well worth seeing.
If you can appreciate an older film with a pacing and depiction that is slower than what we are used to, then you should check this out. Even if you doubt your ability to stay interested, you should try it regardless. The film is only 85 minutes long.
Needless to say, I was very much impressed with High Noon. Figures like Will Kane help to give us something to aspire to. In his character we can see the difficulty and resolve it takes to do the right thing when all else seems lost. And everyone can empathize with that and take strength from it. But even aside from this observation, I would point out that the movie is brilliantly acted and the story very interesting. On all points, High Noon is a great one. And conveniently available on Netflix Watch Instantly.