Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the drama Gran Torino, marking his first film role since his Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood portrays Walt Kowaski, an iron-willed and inflexible Korean War veteran living in a changing world, who is forced by his immigrant neighbours to confront his own long-held prejudices.
What can I say? If I try to describe this film to someone it sounds terrifically dull - but it's wonderful. Okay, I'm an old softie: I loved "Bridges of Madison" and "Million Dollar Baby" and this is of the same high quality. Clint takes the time to develop the characters. Why don't other film-makers bother to do that? The film is great because you actually care about the characters - even the ones who hardly speak. They feel fully fleshed out and have real personalities. At times the performances are so spontaneous that they feel improvised. It doesn't really matter what this film's name is or what the plot is about. This is a "people" film about real life (not mine thankfully) and just when you start to think it might be turning into Dirty Harry, it turns into something else - something which everything about the Clint Eastwood character has been setting up throughout the film. Five stars. Thank you Mr. Eastwood.
This is a review of the Blu-Ray version of Gran Torino.
First of all I did not at any time think 'Wow! What a stunning Blu-Ray picture in 1080P !' That's because from start to finish it looked like a normal standard-def DVD. The extras and options are good however, with spoken language options English (inc Dolby TrueHD), English descriptive narration, French, Dutch, Italian and Castellano. Subtitles excellent - English, French, German, Italian, Castellano, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese and Korean. There is the facility to set up an account with Warner Bros BD-Live, offering on-line up-to-date movie trailers, further information about the Gran Torino film among much more, all of which was easy to do with a WiFi enabled PS3.
The 5-star rating applies mainly to the film itself rather than its technical features. You've got to hand it to Clint Eastwood, whose last acting role this apparently was. This is his 66th film as an actor, and his 34th (but not last) as a director. Yet he's 79 years of age, which is awesome considering he's more than doing the numbers - no, this is a fine piece of acting by any standard and he is as magnetic to watch as ever. In this quirky but realistic story he plays Walt Kowalski, a grumpy, humourless, bigoted Polish American, recently widowed and still haunted by memories of the Korean War more than half a century earlier. He worked at Ford in Detroit most of his working life, and probably his proudest possession is his 1972 Ford Torino. When the film first came out about a year ago I had the impression that he was a racist, but that isn't accurate; he doesn't really like anybody, not even his own sons and grandchildren, and just wants to be left alone in peace, with his labrador as his only welcome companion. His next-door neighbours are of Hmong descent, a culture from a mixture of the Asian countries of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. One of them, a young man called Thao, is bullied by a mainly Hispanic gang into stealing the Torino, which is when an unlikely relationship between Kowalski and Thao begins.
This is a character-driven contemporary drama from start to finish, deliberately old-school in keeping with the personality of Kowalski himself, and while it is chock-full of expletives it is nevertheless frequently very funny as well, with most of the laughs coming from Eastwood's ironic, dead-pan expressions or grumbles, even if he doesn't look as if he feels like laughing himself. It has almost nothing to do with racism at all, instead it is a mildly uplifting tale of a man acting as mentor and father-figure to a youngster in danger of taking the wrong path in life. Eastwood occasionally displays some Dirty Harry-esque moments with his growly threats to get off of his lawn, whether this is a deliberate parody of himself isn't clear but it's also one of the few examples of him slipping out of the unique character that is Walt Kowalski, a role he fills to near perfection throughout. As he has done countless times throughout his career, Eastwood carries this film (despite a very good supporting cast) and in spite of his advancing years he's still very much the powerful leading man he has always been. Very few actors have equalled him for consistency and strength over such a long period - he's been at the top for well over 50 years - and I wonder if anyone will match him in the future.
In summary, an amusing but serious story, entertaining and thought-provoking, and a fitting closure to a magnificent acting career.Read more ›
Throughout his illustrious acting career, Clint Eastwood has delivered a series of iconic characters, such as The Man with no name, Dirty Harry, Josie Wales, and Will Munny in Unforgiven.
Throughout his illustrious directing career he has delivered outstanding movies such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby, for which he has won five Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, and including the Irving Thalberg Life Achievement Award.
The actors who have worked with him have been blessed with Oscar: Gene Hackman for Unforgiven, Tim Robbins and Sean Penn for Mystic River, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby.
In Gran Torino he both directs and acts, and delivers an acting performance that will be remembered long after the final credits roll, in its unique way, as memorable as any other character he has created.
Gran Torino is the second best movie I have seen this year. Not just for the acting, not just for the directing, but for the storytelling, and the emotional journey on which it takes you, the laughter, the feeling of being gripped, and its more surprising moments.
In the opening scenes, we have the exposition of the character. We get to know Walt Kowalski, by how people act around him, and his seemingly hateful attitude towards people. More is conveyed through a scowl, and a snarl than with words. When the mischievous grandchildren go through his stuff in the basement, we see the photographs and the Silver Star he won in Korea. There are three other important symbols in the movie, the lighter, the gun, and the car.
We see a hero with a warrior past, a patriot who fought for a cause greater than himself. Clearly, his bigotry stems from those experiences.
He's not just mean, he's 'get of my lawn' mean. He's Dirty Harry 'Go ahead punk, make my day!,' mean.
His dead wife's priest bugs him to hear his confession, at her request. The priest in a way is his wife's conscience. So begins the theme of redemption.
When he snarls down the barrel of his rifle, at the neighborhood punk: 'I could blow your head off, and sleep like a baby,' you get the sense that he means it.
So, with all that happens, we see the change in his decision making, from someone reluctant to be involved in his neighbor's affairs, and a story can turn on something as random as looking at an empty beer cooler.
For all his faults, Walt has mature masculine character. Even though he is a difficult father, he has taught his children character. So, when he sees the boy next door lacks character, and a strong male role model, he takes him under his wing, and teaches him how to be a man.
The scenes where the boy practises Walt's high octane ball busting banter, are the funniest in the movie. Through knowing Walt, he makes decisions he never would have made by himself. In so doing, Walt finds meaning and purpose, and a chance for redemption, and the boy becomes a man.
The Academy's actor awards tend to go to actors in two types of role:
1. Psychopath- No Country for Old Men, The Usual Suspects, There Will Be Blood, Training Day, Silence of the Lambs.
2. Mentally Disabled, Social or Physical Handicap, overcomes great adversity or discrimination- Shine, As Good as It Gets, A Beautiful Mind, Ray, Scent of a Woman, Capote, Philadelphia, The Pianist, A Beautiful Life.
Every rule has an exception. Russell Crowe in Gladiator played a character with thematic similarities to Walt.
For a 78 year old man to direct and be lead actor in a movie of this caliber is an achievement worthy at the very least of being nominated for the highest award for Acting, Directing or both.
An elderly man (Walt Kowalski), having just lost his wife, unintentionally finds friendship with his Hmong neighbours when he inadvertently saves the teenage boy nextdoor from an altercation with his cousin's gang. Walt then finds himself stepping in on a few occasions where either the boy or his sister get into bother.
This is a brilliant story about a man who finds he has more in common with the immigrant family around him than his own family and feels compelled to help them.
By far the best film I've seen in a long time and definitely recommended.