Gran Torino (2008)

Ⓒ Matten Productions
Ⓒ Matten Productions

Director: Clint Eastwood Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christpoher Carley, Anhey Her

Gran Torino is a harrowing drama about a grumpy and bitter Korean War veteran living somewhere near Detroit, Michigan, in a neighbourhood where he is now outnumbered by Korean immigrants. The story follows Walt (Eastwood) after the death of his wife, as he becomes accustomed to living on his own and next door to some very persistent Korean neighbours. As the plot unfolds, he eventually takes Thao (Vang), one of his younger neighbours, under his wing and protects him and his family from local street gangs.

This film is pretty hard-going to watch. It begins with the funeral of Walt’s wife, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Walt is not an immediately likeable person and, although his contempt for his irritating grandchildren is totally understandable, he treats people who try to help him or show him kindness rather badly. However, Walt’s next-door-neighbours, partly because of their culture and partly because he accidentally ends up helping them out, are persistent in showing him kindness and as a result Walt softens and starts to get along with them. Ultimately, despite its depressing tone, the film is one about how people’s hearts can be changed by the care and kindness of others. The development of Walt’s character allows us to understand why he is how he is, and we see how in the most unlikely of situations people can always have another chance to make things right- with themselves and those around them. In the end, Walt redeems himself and everyone gets what the deserve.

The cast is pretty much unknown except for Eastwood. Eastwood is his usual brooding self, which although can get tedious (I watched The Man with No Name trilogy in two days and had certainly had enough of him by then end), fits the persona of Walt perfectly. At times there are even fleeting glimpses of some dry humour lurking behind his moody facade. It is filmed in a very appropriate bluefish green filter, which suits the tone of the film. What we see of the run-down, crumbling neighbourhood compared to Walt’s immaculate lawn is a nice touch,  putting us in the shoes of Walt and seeing his surroundings through his eyes.

All in all, this is a great film that manages to make the audience become involved with the characters through its slow-paced but never boring storyline. It takes its time to build up to the final scene, which leaves the audience feeling satisfied and almost relieved. Perhaps not recommended for a light-hearted Saturday night in, but well worth a watch.

5 stars

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