Made My Day
It’s good to see Clint Eastwood do his thing. He’s evolved into a great dean of American Cinema now as his heavily creased face and age-withered gait has reduced him from the fluid gun-slinging actor he was in his youth. You all know I’m a big Clint fan. I suffered through such films as ‘The Rookie’ just to watch him blow away bad guys – which is in its essence, is a Western just like this film, the life blood of American cinema.
‘Gran Torino’ is a lot more subdued with the action and the stakes are a lot lower, but no less valuable. The script oozes with character observation that Eastwood seizes upon. The menace and rage has been compressed into a nostalgia for the 1970s, as symbolised by the 1972 Ford Gran Torino. In the early 1970s our man Clint was blowing them away in ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Magnum Force’, smouldering with rage at the irrational breakdown of the American social fabric. Here he is again, doing the dirty deed to keep society intact.
What’s Good About It
The script gets high praise, and it is very deserving. It pays very careful attention to character and space as well as time and occasion. Best of all, the script is very entertaining from moment, and you can watch these characters without needing to kick things along with plot mechanisms. the plot circles back to the point easily enough to explore the textures of this story along the way.
The directing is also good. It’s muscular, sinewy and simple, just like the man you see. There are no swooping camera moves, just gentle moves that show draw attention to what is important in the scene. It is a substance-over-style kind of directing that Baz Luhrman ought to study a bit more. Eastwood has never been a flashy kind of director as who makes camera moves that draw attention to themselves, but I think he is every bit as important a film maker as Stanley Kubrick. Let’s face it, the man has at least 7 classic directing efforts to his name, and this might even be on that last.
What’s Bad About It
I’m hard-pressed to think of anything bad about this film at all. It’s a film with an embarrassment of riches. It was a choice o this film, ‘Revolutionary Road’, or ‘Valkyrie’, or ‘The Wrestler’ and it was relatively easy to say, “I want to see the Clint Eastwood movie”.
What’s Interesting About The Film
Having directed two films about WWII, and Iwo jima in particular, Eastwood play a guy who fought in the Korean War. If there ever was a forgotten war, the Korean War might be it. After all the hoopla about the Vietnam war and all the films dedicated to, the Korean War’s biggest screen representation remain MASH and its TV show that ran a colossal 10 seasons.
You come to realise that the 20th Century American fought like the Romans and in the century, it changed the tenor of its culture. The Hmong community that is bourne our of the Vietnam War moves into Clint’s character Walt’s neighbourhood. In a sense, the other wars America has fought has come to roost in his neighborhood. He tries to make sense of it through his Korean War experience only to find it inadequate.
You can read the film as the Thao character’s initiation into the American mainstream, or as the concession by mainstream America that the mainstream itself cannot be defined by the old white neighborhood. Not a difficult topic in the year Barrack Obama takes office in the White House. What’s poignant about is that Clint Eastwood the director is seems to be seeing past that point into a future America, based on the weight of his previous films.
People have been making a point about the politically incorrect banter that pours forth in the film, but the profanity and racist epithets seem to be no big deal next to the real issues that are mounting. The issues of respect and self-respect come back like the returning repressed, but what is interesting is that it is the politically correct language that has somehow repressed respect.
I don’t know if I can go with that notion. I mean, it sucks to be demeaned, and it sucks to be patronised, but at least the script seem to be saying that being patronised is worse than merely demeaned. There are worse things than being verbally demeaned, and the film is explicit about showing us the miseries of middleclass life, running parallel to the miseries of disenfranchised life.
Here’s a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film:
When in the end, Eastwood’s character Walt steps up to being a hero once more, and a Eastwood character must – he chooses to be a self-sacrificing hero. On this occasion the Eastwood character does not choose to do violence unto the other, but rather in a most Christian way, turns the other cheek and die as sacrifice to save his friend Thao. As Eastwood’s Walt lies bleeding to death, he lies there with both arms out, like a crucifix. It echoes the Catholic guilt in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ but is also echoes the final scene in ‘Dirty Harry’ where he casts his detective’s badge into the water.
You think ‘this is hokum’ and at the same time, you feel, ‘Wow, he got there’. After all these years, I remain an Eastwood fan.