Mystic River (2003) – Clint Eastwood

The next film from DK Canada’s The Movie Book as I tackle the What Else to Watch list following my screening of The Sweet Hereafter is this exemplary film from Clint Eastwood. The movie stars Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney.

The film follows three childhood friends, one of whom has a dark secret, when tragedy strikes one of them, and tears their world apart. With Boston as their backdrop, the story, based on Dennis Lehane’s novel puts viewers through the emotional wringer.

One of them was assaulted, kidnapped and molested as a child and who may just have done something terrible, Dave (Robbins), one of them became a cop, Sean (Bacon) and one of them just learned his daughter has been murdered, former? criminal, Jimmy (Penn).

The film doesn’t pull its punches and Eastwood makes sure you feel the emotional gut punch of the events that nearly destroy these people, and their families.

Eastwood tells a tale of vengeance, vigilantism, justice, and family, and each member of the cast brings the necessary amount of gravitas. And while you may not like all of the characters, there are motivations and moments that the viewer can relate to or dread finding themselves in.

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Running over two hours, the film takes its time with its telling, but never feels like its dragging, each moment is well-crafted, important, and advances the story in some way, whether a character’s emotional journey or a devastating plot point, everything works.

A number of Eastwood’s later films seem to have political messages, but this one seems like a straight forward tale (well, mostly), that plays to morality, and family than it does politics. And the film is better for it.

There’s a grit and realism to Eastwood’s film making that helps ground the film, and delivers more of an impact because of it. That grounded reality applies not only to the production to the performances as well, it would be easy for the leads to push their performances a little over the top, but it’s all wonderfully restrained…

… and real. The film’s final acts of the film, the things revealed are doled out just right, and puts the viewer through the emotional wringer as you realize how things are going to play out.

The great thing about Eastwood’s film is that you can relate to all sides of the things that the characters are going through, understanding all of their motivations, and your own experiences lend to the side you take, even as the characters make their own decisions leading to inescapable events.

It’s a film with some heavy subject matter, and won’t be for everyone. But, if it’s not your thing, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find a new to you classic to watch tonight!

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