Monday, 10 May 2010
Put simply, Gran Torino is an excellent film. Not only did Clint Eastwood direct and produce the movie, he also starred in it. His performance as Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski is superb - the blurb on the back of the DVD calls it 'bone-deep' and I think that's spot on. He portrays Kowalski as a brooding, prejudiced and aggressive individual, yet also as a man who has a kind nature and surprising sense of humour. The way Eastwood pivots between these different sides of the same character is both subtle and utterly convincing.
The story itself focuses on Kowalski's dislike for the Hmong immigrants that have moved in next door, and how his perception and attitude towards them gradually changes as he forms relationships with the younger members of the family. As a gang starts to terrorise his new friends, Kowalski finds himself helping the very people he initially disliked, and as events come to a head he realises that only he can save the family's future...but that a sacrifice will need to be made.
It's an absorbing story, covering a number of themes: prejudice, loyalty and the importance of staying true to yourself being just three of them. The script is very good and the plot itself is constructed well. I felt that the middle third lagged slightly - perhaps could have done with another run-in with the gang just to keep the tension going - but overall the pacing was good. The relationships between Kowalski and his Hmong neighbours are rendered very well, and the final climax is both surprising and powerful.