A band of vigilantes catch Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) and, incorrectly believing him guilty of cattle rustling and murder, hang him, and leave him for dead. But he doesn’t die. He returns to his former profession of lawman to hunt down his lynchers and bring them to justice.
There is no absolute justice, not even the law. From time to time, People blindly trust for the authority of justice, and therefore execute all “sinners” regardless of their severity of the crime. It is the young (whose hope of redemption is snuffed out) and the old (who should have lived out their lives in peace) who triggers sympathy when they are sentenced.
In the aspect of narration, while the film criticized the law as the sole authority, it also implies complex feelings about the helplessness of the agents. The difference between men and women: while men’s “enemies” are a matter of great principle, women’s “enemies” can be defeated with the advent of love.
There is no absolute virtue and sin, and those who have tried to hang Cooper also show courage and loyalty when facing the death (Indians and homeless people), have the same fear of death and the same infinite love for life as all human beings (Captain and Miller). When facing the death, there is a remarkable equality between men.
The hunt: Cooper’s mood changes as he pursues his enemy. The purpose of the hunt is not always the planned one, but that is the meaning of the chase: learning about himself and the world.
There are several types of reactions when facing death on and under the gallows: Someone recited wonderful sentences to reassure the world that he might never say in his entire life, and that’s what he was trying to leave behind (Wiskey Peddler). I have to say I thought that monologue was pretty good! Perhaps it is easier for people who have been educated to see hanging as a performance and a celebration to develop sole “black or white” value. To “watch with joy” the suffering of others, I think this is not only just a special inferiority of a national special prey, but a representation for all humanity: man is ignorant, he can only see the on-going tragedy from others, but never know his own fate, in complacency, it is always sad and inescapable human limitations.
IMDB link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061747/