Review: Mystic River (2003)


Clint Eastwood brings the power, oh wait, we’re in Boston, the powah!

Screenplay By: Brian Helgeland
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

The opening moments of Mystic River are powerful in their subdued nature, but it is a snippet of a scene directly following the opening moments that lets us know the true power this movie contains. A boy runs through the woods, animal sounds all around him, he is the hunted, he is prey. Even as an adult you can see that Dave Boyle is still in that forest, he is still being chased down by wild animals. Through cinema Mystic River is able to present what Dave can’t express himself. We begin to sense what the real truth is, we begin to feel for Dave and realize how damaged he is. Mystic River finds its true power in Dave’s final moments, when we sense that all these years later the wild animals have finally caught up with him, this time in the guise of a revenge driven friend. We can’t escape from the dour nature of Mystic River, the residents can’t escape from their situation and poor Dave can’t escape from the wild animals of our nightmares and his reality.

In order for any of the above to ring true you need strong performances. Mystic River is full of nothing but strong performances. The supporting cast is great, but Mystic River belongs to Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn. Each of them have their moments, but they always maintain the same level of honesty and realism no matter what situation their characters are in. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins are used to acting accolades, Kevin Bacon not so much. I have always been a big supporter of Kevin Bacon as a very good actor, and it’s always a joy to see him in movies where he gets to display his acting chops for all to see. It’s no surprise that his character is the one we relate to the most, because he is the only one of the three friends willing to take on his demons and change. Dave dies because of his demons, Jimmy reverts to his murderous ways because of his demons, but only Sean is able to overcome his demons and perhaps lay the groundwork for a better life.

I have spoken before of how I am a big fan of Clint Eastwood as a director, and Mystic River is no different. His style is just as simple in Mystic River as it is in all of his best movies, and through that simplicity he draws true emotion form his audience. He constructs a pace for the movie that allows the characters time to breathe but still keeps the audience interested. Eastwood, as well as the rest of the crew, imbue every scene with some minor detail that drives the story forward, there is never a moment in Mystic River that could be done away with.

The only area of Mystic River that I still remain unsure of is the ending. When I first saw Mystic River I hated the ending, in my mind it glorified the actions of Sean Penn’s character while all of a sudden turning Laura Linney into some sort of mob wife. My views have changed over time to where I take the final parade sequence as a condemnation of Penn and Linney. A statement that little victories like this are all they can hope for in life because they are destroyers, not human beings capable of a greater life. My view will probably change the next time I watch Mystic River, but for the time being I am satisfied with the ending I was given.

Mystic River marks yet another triumph for Clint Eastwood as a director. Others may not like him or his style, but I happen to love his simple take on making films and drawing emotions for his audience. Mystic River is equal parts great character study, family drama, murder mystery and psychological inspection. Put them all together and you have a great film, one in a long line of them from Clint Eastwood.





2 responses to “Review: Mystic River (2003)

  1. Paragraph Film Reviews

    Brilliant film, this made our “best of the decade list”!!!

  2. It would be up there in a best of the 00s list for me as well.

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