Posts Tagged ‘Clint Eastwood’

(Originally published in 2003)

 

Mystic River

by Jonas Cukierman

Clint Eastwood haunts us once again with a hard-bitten drama about the harsh lives of some very tough Irish-Americans in BostonSean Penn leads a cast of such greats as the sorely missed Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden. The film opens with three best friends as young boys, Dave (Robbins), Jimmy (Penn) and Sean (Bacon) playing ball on the street of their working-class neighborhood. Then almost at once, their lives are traumatically changed. Now we jump forward twenty-five years and are led through a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. From the onset, the film’s cinematography and its minimal yet ominous music, are instrumental in depicting a world that is as much forbidding inside, as it is outside the minds of the main players. The relationship of the individuals and those surrounding them is tested to the breaking point when Jimmy’s daughter (Emmy Rossum) is found murdered. This is also when we are given a paced but well calculated inroad into the psyche of these three men, who were once close, but have each taken diametrically opposite paths. From this point, the surface of their outwardly cohesive community begins to break as secrets and past grievances rear their ugly heads. Slowly but surely, we realize that Dave, Sean and Jimmy have histories, which are disturbing in their own design. While there is a seemingly innate tendency towards crime within Jimmy, there is also an ever-present allusion to the power which religion plays in his life and how he relates to his ordeals. Neither the major or minor characters in Mystic River are spared the barrage of violence and misunderstandings, which snowball into a final and very alarming finale.

Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne are mainly left in the sidelines and turn in rather muted performances. This however is not so much a product of the material, as it is the fact that Penn and Robbins deliver the embodiment of two truly unhinged and in many ways defeated men. In my opinion, there are two central themes that prevail in this film, which at times seems to have a murky plot. The first is that people have a dangerous tendency to draw inferences based on certain perceptions rather than on hard evidence. This in itself is most risky, especially when a person’s sanity is at stake, let alone his life. The other is that in the end we answer not to other men, but to our own conscience.

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Hereafter

by Jonas Cukierman

A film with a quiet pace and the prosaic quality of a transcendental 20th century novel, Hereafter also incorporates elements of noir with shadows and angles giving us a glimpse into the minds of the central characters with a discreet yet invasive enough methodology.  Throughout the film there is an unyielding sense of pain which is waiting to be alleviated by self-discovery. In Hereafter the pain the players all battle with is one that crosses our paths without fail.  That pain is the crunch of death.

Marie LaVey (Cecile De France) is a Parisian reporter on vacation on an island somewhere in the pacific rim when a tidal wave suddenly wipes out the resort village where she and companion are staying. As she is swept up in the maelström, she is killed by the rush of the sea. Yet not sooner does Marie see spirits shrouded in light when she finds herself awakening to a disorienting struggle to determine which way is up as she rolls in a vortex of seawater which still has her gripped.

On the other side of the world, Ten year old Marcus lives in London with his identical twin Jason and his junkie mother. One day Jason is bullied by some street ruffians and while fleeing from them is caused to run in front of an oncoming truck and is suddenly killed on impact. When the mother checks into rehab, Marcus is forced into foster care and this is when a sort of globe-trotting quest to find answers begins; when fate will bring several souls in need together and a very deep contemplation from the mind of audiences.

San Francisco

George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a lonely industrial worker with a very special gift.  A reluctant psychic, he gave up honing his abilities long ago in exchange for a quieter life. Taking too much of a toll on his existence, connecting with the dead proved too much, so George now relegates himself to listening to Shakespeare audiobooks read by Derek Jacobi and keeping away from anyone who may want to use him for celebrity purposes, including his brother Billy (Jay Mohr).

While Marie goes on a journey to understand who is chosen to die and who is spared, she seeks advice from the scientific community, with its no-nonsense approach and its rejection of religion, to a more directly emotional experience as she witnesses the suffering of a family as a young loved one slips away in their arms in hospice care.  No matter what, Marie is getting a taste of every point of view whether she believes in one, the other, or some midpoint in the spectrum; especially after being haunted by spirits during her death experience.

Meanwhile Marcus is on an equally exploratory quest in which he is determined to communicate with Jason at all cost.  However, for this he must find a medium which will facilitate such a meeting.  After running into nothing but charlatans and quacks, Marcus reaches a stalemate and come to a dead end…or so it seems.  Then it turns out George will be present at a book signing right in London because, in a strange turn of events,  none other than Derek Jacobi himself is going to be there.  Furthermore, Marie has also published a book and now the very notion of death has breathed new life into the weakened souls of these three sojourners in a monumental act of serendipity.  In a final act of closure, the three protagonists do not escape death, but they sure come to terms with it. And in the end, that is perhaps all we can hope for. Hereafter is not a happily ever after tale, nor is it a glossed-over Hollywood effort which means to idealistically cheer you up. It is an examination about a very real subject with a naturalistic approach from all angles: scientific, medical, religious, spiritual, holistic, superstitious, and most of all familial.

Additionally, it is a work which deals which deals with such a personal topic that it is impossible not to become engrossed in Eastwood’s directorial style.  Rather than observing characters being played out on a screen, George, Marcus, and Marie draw you into the center of their dilemmas which makes for a rather paralytic confusion, which eventually segues into a gradual relief that comes with that very discovery – there’s that word again- and finally coming to terms with a disenchanting subjects.  Eastwood’s storytelling is universal but hardly typical. Highly introspective, not overly dramatic, and unsentimental, Hereafter is an emotional and analytical approach to the destiny we wonder most about.