Review: Gran Torino (2008)

Film Review Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood as pure bad ass, I am there in a heartbeat!

Screenplay By: Nick Schenk
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

I am a Clint Eastwood fan, both as an actor and a director. As a director he understands how to get the most out of very little, and he does this again in Gran Torino. The story of Gran Torino is very simple, old man changes kids and they in turn help to warm his heart. In the hands of a lesser director this film would have been so much formulaic pap. Luckily Mr. Eastwood is not a lesser director. He takes a simplistic and often done tale and infuses it with life, humor, charm, a bit of violence, and most of all lessons learned. The lesson in Gran Torino is one of simplicity in direction and humility in story. The direction is very simplistic, focusing on what needs focus to get the story across the easiest, and the story ends up being a very humble and almost small tale because of the direction. There’s no need for complicated shots in a sparse setting such as the world of Walt Kowlaski. His world is cut and dry, as is that of the Hmong, and a world that cut and dry needs direction that is cut and dry as well. Perhaps the simplest shot of the entire film and the one that expresses what Gran Torino is about in the simplest of ways is the shot of Daisy on the Lor’s porch as Sue and Thao leave for Walt’s funeral. That image of a dog that is now alone and expresses its sadness in its waiting like a dutiful friend for the return of his owner is the simplest shot possible. It expresses the devotion, caring and loss that is at the heart of Gran Torino, and it’s all in the shot of a dog. Of course, others that are not dog lovers like I will probably not see the same thing in that particular shot.

Clint Eastwood the actor gives one of his best performances. He is every bit the surly old neighbor of my Grandpa’s. He is the old war veteran that hasn’t let go of his past and doesn’t understand the world around him. He’s also the old man that is just waiting for that one person that is willing to cut through his tough guy persona and enter his world. Sue and Thao manage to crack the shell of Walt, and in the process Mr. Eastwood shows off all his wares as an actor. He is equal parts bad ass, violent, humorous, distant and seeking. Finally in the end he comes to be at peace with himself and all those around him. It’s not that he had to change, it’s that he has finished his life and the world outside is no longer for him. That is why he takes the action he does at the end, the world is for Sue and Thao. It’s their time to grow, and in the final message that there was always a gigantic heart underneath that rawhide skin of Walt makes sure that Thao and Sue can inherit their world.

Gran Torino has its faults, there are moments where the dialogue is a bit too clunky, obvious or cheesy. The tone also stretches towards melodrama at points, but not enough to seriously hurt the movie. Gran Torino isn’t a movie that will change the world or a movie that will be remembered for all-time, although the performance by Mr. Eastwood would be if I had my way. Gran Torino is a movie that takes on a classical subject and does it the right amount of justice. That plus Mr. Eastwood’s performance made for a more than enjoyable movie going experience.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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4 responses to “Review: Gran Torino (2008)

  1. Clint Eastwood did a great job of using his outward crankiness to come across as mean as well as somehow heroic this newest film of his

  2. Bill Thompson

    That’s Clint Eastwood for ya, Mr. Cranky.

  3. We’ve gone back and forth about this with others at Filmspotting, but I couldn’t disagree more. While I don’t have any issues with the context of the story per say (quite interesting, if somewhat unoriginal) I find the supporting cast to be so weak it took me out of the film. I also felt the bonding between Clint and the young lad to be a bit boring. Gardening, moving furniture, etc. It’s not that they didn’t need to be in the film, but more that those scenes fell terribly flat. Again though, when I look back on those sequences, all I can remember is atrocious acting, so my thoughts are most likely skewed.

    Perhaps the movie could not possibly satisfy me because of uncalled for expectations. After Letters from Iwo Jima, MIllion Dollar Baby and Changeling, I guess I was expecting something…more. Partly my fault, I won’t deny it, but damn that acting sucked!

  4. See, I told you that you’d eventually find a review you disagreed with. :)

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