Monday, 13 April 2009
Let’s face it, Clint Eastwood is badass, at 78 he’s still directing, producing and starring in films of the highest calibre – come on, who doesn’t want him to be their grumpy Grandad? As Walt in Gran Torino he takes on probably his last starring role, and it’s a fitting farewell to his time on the silver screen.
Korean war veteran and dedicated xenophobe Walt, is struggling with the death of his wife and, as he sees it, the deterioration of his neighbourhood as the immigrant community grows around him. The racial tensions throughout the film are palpable and expertly handled, though I learnt more racial slurs in the first half hour than I ever needed or wanted to know! The plot centres around Walt’s relationship with his young Hmong neighbours, borne through a series of encounters culminating in an attempt by shy Thao to steal Walt’s prized ’72 Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation. The growth of Walt’s friendship with Thao and his sister Sue, is touching and believable. It even provides a few unexpected laughs as he struggles to reconcile his prejudices with the reality of his warm and intelligent new acquaintances, discovering a new lease of life through his newfound connection with people. As a clever and subtle signifier of their familiarity with each other, the insults of old slowly become nicknames used through habit rather than to cause offense.
The film tackles tradition, history, humanity, race and spirituality, and Eastwood effortlessly commands every scene he’s in. Fans will be glad to see the spirit of Dirty Harry definitely lives on. The writing, pace, and cinematography are faultless, and there’s even a neat twist at the end, but I won’t give the game away... Basically, he spits a lot, he swears a lot and he growls a lot, as the boy put it: “he’s just a cantankerous old bastard with access to weaponry!” – I couldn’t agree more, he’s one of the coolest vigilantes ever.