Hadleyville, June 1865, a just married, and retiring Marshall (Cooper) stands alone in the fight of his life against four killers looking for revenge, who are coming in on the noon train. A very simple story of how a town betrays the man who has been their backbone for many years, and how he decides to stay and fight with or without his new bride (Kelly), and regardless of an almost certain suicidal circumstance.
The timing of this movie and its story is remarkable. During the early 1950s the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was in full stride and Hollywood was the main focus. Many people were blacklisted from the industry during these HUAC hearings, including High Noon's screenwriter Carl Foreman for not revealing names of the so-called Communist sympathizers. Ironically Foreman's script is in actuality a symbolic gesture of what he was all about: A man has to do what a man has to do, even if he is all alone in his fight for what is right.
Aside from the controversy, this classic western is similar to most others as it has that same good vs. bad storyline. However it has that something that keeps us watching the movie over and over again after all these years. Yes, the acting is first rate, especially Cooper in his Oscar winning performance. The western feeling is definitely there, with the haunting score by Dmitri Tiomkim, as well as the brilliant editing by Elmo Williiams. But one thing stands out above all the rest: it's simplicity. This movie has captured something that brings us into the picture and onto the dirt roads and grimy saloon of Hadleyville. Firstly, the running time at approximately 85 minutes is in exact correspondence to the actual story time. This gives us a sense of realism that can't be beaten. We experience the tension Will Kane feels as 12:00 noon appoaches. Secondly, the call of duty aspect may seem ridiculous for today's times, however if our hero didn't stay it would have eaten him alive, and inevitably he would have returned some day. And finally, the ending is justified as each person in the film including all the residents of Hadley ville get what they deserve, and especially the viewer, as we are witness to a simple yet extremely satisfying piece of motion picture art.
There are great American Westerns in cinematic history… however, High Noon, even with its simplicity, stands alone on top as the greatest.