Sunday 7 August 2011

Gran Torino (2008) - Clint Eastwood

Gran Torino is a veritable melting pot of themes.  It deals with an elderly man (Walt Kowalski - Eastwood) coming to terms with the death of his wife and the guilt he feels for losing touch with his family as he struggles to survive in modern day, multicultural America - a country dominated by the younger generation. 

Ultimately, though, it's a film about heroism and redemption.  At the start, none of the characters are particularly likeable: from the local brown-nosing vicar, to Walt's patronising and selfish family; but none more so than Walt himself, a man who is more in love with his Gran Torino car than his own family.  A growling racist disappointed with life, he's out of touch with modern times and is dismayed at the influx of foreigners to America including the "barbarian Chinks" who live next door.  But when their young son Thao gets caught up with a local gang, Walt (predictably) becomes the unlikely hero to step up to the plate and deal with the situation.  As such, the film is essentially a typical buddy movie between Walt and Thao, with Walt gradually revealing his gooey inner heart and, in the process, dealing with his guilt from the Korean war. 

The narrative deals with the themes sensitively, even if the plot is fairly predictable.  More unfortunate is Walt's character.  His transition from grumpy old man to loveable neighbour is well played, but it's a stereotypical softening of character seen before countless times - not least in Eastwood's own Million Dollar BabyThe film itself, though, mirrors Walt - what begins as a hard film to crack soon reveals its warm, fuzzy centre.  It also furthers Eastwood's position as one of the eminent directors of his generation.