Friday, August 28, 2009

Gran Torino [*Spoiler alert*]

Gran Torino directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. It's almost as though Clint Eastwood like the hero is flowering late in life, although Million Dollar Baby while having excellent production values was ideologically depressing. Coming from Tasmania I remember the Hmong community at Salamanca Market and I remember a quilt Mum and Dad bought featuring the story of their escape from Communist persecution in South East Asia. I spotted a similar one inside one of the Hmong houses during Gran Torino. I also enjoyed the fact Walt Kowalski was a Korean War veteran; a war overshadowed by the Second World War but with it's effects still lingering in a way the Vietnam War doesn't. Although Kowalski is a racist grump, his verve in approaching life, fixing things, staying in shape and being observant are impressive character traits that I'd like to have at 78. The themes of justice, retribution and vicarious sacrifice were handled well, much better then most of the culliod nonsense churned out by our cultural handlers. Kowalski's sacrifice made me think of Romans 5. "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It was also wonderful to see a Priest on the big screen who wasn't a pedophile, gay or doubting his faith, but had good things to say and a major role in the film.

I think great films magnify their flaws, mediocre films overwhelm you with jazz and jilter. Gran Torino is a film about death, a theme Eastwood has been exploring for some time. Perhaps he senses keenly his own mortality because the film is bookended by funerals and through it all Kowalski is a dying man, coughing up blood, a man preparing himself for the end. And that is its flaw. Eastwood is seeking order and meaning in the approach to death, yet shys from really grappling with consequences of meaningless and death. This is a director in the midst of a shallow culture really thinking about what matters but hesitating just before the edge of real potency. I hope Eastwood meets his maker soaked in the Savior's blood.