Small-town Marshall Will Kane (Cooper) faces a lonely, dark vigil when he hears that a deadly enemy and vengeful murderer has been set free by liberal abolitionists. Attempting to enlist the help and support of his good neighbours in suppressing his returning foe, Kane finds only cowardice and fear whichever way he turns. Worse perhaps, while preparing for the inevitable gun battle, Kane faces vehement, pacifist disapproval from his Quaker wife Amy (Kelly). Meanwhile, his nemesis and eager gang speed ever nearer, due to arrive on the midday train.
Bolstered by a highly dignified and impeccable performance from an aging Gary Cooper, which has since come to been seen as synonymous with male heroism, Zinnemann's taut, meticulously crafted Western - largely played out in 'real time' with an emphasis on ticking clocks palpably cranking up the tension - still stands as one of the greatest examples of the genre. It's an allegorical tale about the McCarthy witch hunts, penned by HUAC blacklisted writer Carl Foreman, which also offers a number of well-thought-out observations on the nature of violence.
It's a beautifully composed film - courtesy of Floyd Crosby's picturesque sunlight and shadow compositions - which achieves the difficult task of being about morality while avoiding tart sermonising and hollow admonitions. A film about what it means to be a man that manages to avoid the musk of machismo, "High Noon" is truly a film that improves with each and every viewing.
Read a review of the DVD.