Thursday, February 19, 2009

GRAN TORINO

GRAN TORINO
Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley




I have to say that for someone who grew up basically ignoring Clint Eastwood's earlier films i.e his Dirty Harry phase, I have now grown to admire his latest body of work where his films (The Changeling, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima) explore the human psyche right to its core.

Here he portrays a reclusive Korean War veteran who 'saves' his neighbor, a Hmong teenager from the bullying tactics of a gang. Thereafter, his whole 'isolated' life becomes enmeshed with the strange cultural antics of the Hmong race. In the process, both the teenager and the war veteran make life altering decisions which affect their lives, for the better. Even though they are from different cultural backgrounds, they develop a bond which transcends race, culture and generation gap.

The movie is devoid of distracting and sometimes unnecessary side plots. It is set in a little community filled with immigrants. A social reality that is enveloping small town America, nowadays. There are no fast paced action scenes, no noisy car chases, no inconsequential romantic angles. It uses the simplistic approach to tell a story.

The story of Walt Kowalski, the bigoted, bitter war veteran who has seen enough tragedies in his life. Circumstances which in turn made him develop a you and me against the world stance. As long as he is left alone in his little comfort zone, he doesn't really care much about anything else. His prized possession is his Gran Torino, a vintage car. But once his prize possession is under threat, he intervenes and in return his comfort zone doesn't seem that comfortable any more.

Clint Eastwood shines in this role. His usual underacting style works to his advantage. His dialogue is filled with funny, sarcastic lines. He delivers them eloquently. He is funny (in a sarcastic way) when he needs to be and he is dead serious in appropriate scenes. He has good chemistry with the actor who portrays the Hmong teenager.

A well directed, well acted simple story (with a slight twist in the ending which bestows the film its poignancy) about a man whose views about the outside world is ultimately changed when he learns to let go of his past demons. As a result in his own unique way, he contributes in making the community he lives in a much better place.

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