Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gran Torino (2008)

I have to say Clint Eastwood will be ultimately know for his body of work as a director then an actor. I'm not taking away anything about Eastwood's performances in his films, but he is a man in his 70's who is churning out good solid films when most of us think about retiring and resting on our laurels. Eastwood has used his star clout to make the films he wants to make. He has always been a solid director, and actor, and one can learn a lot by studying his films. From The Beguiled: The Storyteller to Gran Torino Eastwood has brought audiences attention to intolerance, violence, and the lone individual making a difference.

I've heard all the reviews by now, and the accolades that this movie is bringing to Eastwood, and I have to say that I agree. If you only take Gran Torino you have to give Eastwood his due. He is a solid storyteller who uses the camera and editing like nobodies business. Since film making is a collaborative art I have to say that the story in Gran Torino is very sharp. Written by Nick Schenk the man knows how people speak, and is a keen listener to how humans interact. The film is filled with humor, and we find ourselves loving the characters in this film. Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) represents every man who finds himself up in age and who feels a bit disconnected from today's culture. How we got to where we are later in life sometimes remains a mystery, but Eastwood makes us like Walt Kowalski sneer and all. But what Eastwood does here best is that he makes us feel the characters hurt, and sadness. Not by dialogue but by good cinematography and keen editing. A good director knows how to do that and Eastwood does that so well here. An example would be the scene where Kowalski talks to his son over the phone. Walt Kowalski has gotten bad news from some tests his doctor has done, but with editing and frame composition Eastwood conveys so much more. There is a distance between father and son that somehow we feel. It is a simple conversation, but it is how Eastwood uses his shots and paces the scene that conveys so much more. It is this that makes Gran Torino such a good and special film.

The story is a bit simplistic. In essence it is about the fight for one young mans soul beautifully played by Bee Vang. But the story works on so many levels. It's about racism, intolerance, violence, and redemption. I heard that some reviewers say that this film is like those old films of yesterday. If they mean sensible, and coherent I'd have to agree, but I think it's just GOOD film making. Nothing yesterday about this film. Eastwood is a good director, and he's a hell of a producer. He knows where and how to get good talent to work on his pictures. Again I have to say that film making is a collaborative art. It takes a lot of people to make a film, and Eastwood knows how to rally them to his films. But he also has learned on every film he's done. He's worked with such greats as Don Siegel, and Sergio Leone and he's learned from them all.

In the end Clint Eastwood will be known as a prolific filmmaker. He works hard at his craft and for him its always been about the work. You can see that in any Eastwood film. Seeing Gran Torino is like seeing a thoroughbred running. After watching Gran Torino you understand why Clint Eastwood is an American icon & prolific filmmaker. Go see Gran Torino you won't be disappointed.

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