By Blake Penfield, Student Writer
Getting older brings a lot of changes in your life. You have to squint to be able to recognize the person waving ten feet away. Your hair loses all color and then completely secedes from the scalp union. You begin to feel a growing resentment for all things new and different until, in a state of manic delirium, you come to the startling epiphany that you’ve become that iconic codgety old geezer who sits on his porch, screaming profanities at the kids on his lawn. I can’t wait for that to happen to me because Clint Eastwood makes it look so cool.
Move out of the way, grizzled cowboys, fearless space marines, brooding superheroes and swashbuckling pirates: old people are what all the kids are going to want to be this Halloween. Eastwood puts the hip back in hip injury and the style back in senile.
As indicated by that needlessly lengthy preamble, Gran Torino is a film about advancing in age. Don’t let the trailers fool you; this is not a film filled with gunfights or exciting car chases. The action is emotional rather than physical, depicting the battle between an elderly man staunchly set in his ways and his realization that he must learn how to change on a personal and relational level.
Eastwood directs himself in his final acting role as Walt, a bigoted, old Korean War veteran whose neighborhood has become populated with Hmong Americans.
Like his previous directorial masterpieces Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood crafts this film in a way that allows the audience to get to know the characters onscreen intimately. Steady camera shots and extensive dialogue-heavy scenes dig deep into each of the characters, revealing complex motivations and reliable entertainment.
We all have met a person like Walt in our day-to-day lives, someone who is unapologetically rude and painfully insufferable, and have wondered what it is that causes that person to act that way. What could be going on in their minds that produce such belligerence? More than once I heard fellow movie-goers comment to the person next to them that, “He’s just like my grandfather” or, “He’s just like Mr. So-and-so.” And that’s what makes Gran Torino so good: we all know Walt and, consequently, we’re all emotionally invested in him.
Of course, none of this relatability would be possible without the sublime performance Eastwood turns in as the principle character. This is an Oscar-winning actor giving an Oscar-worthy performance. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly showed us that Eastwood could play a great tough guy, Million Dollar Baby showed us he could be a fantastic sad guy, but who knew he also could be a terrific funny guy?
Gran Torino demonstrates a beautiful blend of all the staple Eastwood classics while keeping a smile on your lips and a chuckle in your belly. It should be noted that the supporting actors and actresses (including Eastwood’s son Kyle) also deliver commendable performances, but it’s obvious that most of them are completely out of their depths when they share any scene with Eastwood.
From directing and acting to cinematography and score, this is a movie that absolutely oozes excellence. While it may have been snubbed by the Golden Globes, I would be very surprised if the Academy does not at least nominate this film for Best Picture or Eastwood for Best Director or Best Actor.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best films of 2008 (although it’s wide release was delayed until 2009). It is an experience to which movie-goers everywhere deserve to treat themselves. At age 78, this is reported to be Eastwood’s last starring film: he could not have picked a better one.
posted 1/16/09 @ 3:56 PM CST
Student writer? This is one of the best well-written articles I have read about Gran Torino and you hit the nail on the head in every category, Blake. This is my favorite movie of 2008. I was soooooo surprised to hear Clint himself singing the opening bars of the song Gran Torino at the end. I looked up the lyrics at home and listened to it over and over and over again. It is so touching and, I believe, symbolizes the transformation Walt underwent…. from rough and gruff to something a little softer, more gentle. It was a huge risk for Clint to sing this, yet I love it. It’s beautiful, too, that it segues into Jamie Cullum’s beautiful voice.