Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson
I had never been a Clint Eastwood fan until 2008 when I saw this movie. For my whole life I had thought that Eastwood’s image as a tough guy was a load of crap. I didn’t see it despite what anybody said, and nobody had been able to convince me otherwise. It was this movie that changed my mind and made me accept that I was wrong. At the age of 78 years old Clint Eastwood played a part that scared the shit out of me. As Walt Kowalski Eastwood showed me what everybody else had always already seen in him. He played one bad ass old man in this one, and I have had to show him the respect he is due since seeing it. Not only does he himself specifically give a great performance but he crafted an incredible movie all together. Eastwood has become quite a good filmmaker as his career progressed and this movie is a great example of that.
I love this movie; it’s a beautiful story that gives me hope for the potential of the human spirit. Sometimes we can get lost in our own feelings of hate and disappointment. Walt is a character who is disappointed in the world. He has lived too long and outlasted the only people he really cared about. He is bitter and he is a bigot. He has lived a life that has taught him to feel the way he does about the world and at his age he is set in his ways. He takes a chance when circumstances call for action and it changes the rest of his life. He opens up a little bit and learns to appreciate the culture he has never understood before. We only see Walt in the last stage of life but we see him grow so much as a person it is inspiring. Walt was already growing as a person when he found out that his days were numbered. He chose to use the time he had left to make a difference where he could. It is an admirable thing to do and made for a great story that we can all learn from.
Something else I really appreciate about this film is that it is real. The events portrayed aren’t sugar coated but seen as they would happen in the real world. Walt takes a lot of chances and some things work out for him but life does not come without consequences. He doesn’t realize the weight of his actions at times and other people feel the wrath of those who crossed paths with Walt. Some might have hoped for a grand shoot out at the end with Walt prevailing heroic but that would just be the work of Hollywood shenanigans. Walt’s clock was ticking and he knew it. He was an old man who stood no chance against a number of young gangsters, whether they had any balls or not. Any idiot can point a gun and shoot as we see. Walt did the only thing he could do. He sacrificed himself to prevent Thao from doing anything rash, to protect his neighbors from these hoodlums. He set his affairs in order and he allowed himself to be killed in order to get those guys locked up for murder. Walt was a hero if I have ever seen one, in more ways than one.
In the end this film is about honor, about learning to be a better person and doing something that will make a difference. I think there is so much all of us can learn from this movie. If nothing else we should learn that we are never too old to realize we were wrong about something. We should learn that it is never too late to make a difference and we can always make a different decision. Sometimes making one choice differently than we normally would can change everything about who we are. It’s why we should always try to live life with an open mind. Keeping your mind closed can keep so many things from you; it can only hurt as you journey through life. Take a lesson from Walt Kowalski, understand that the world can still surprise you and try to appreciate the things in life you don’t understand.
The young priest played by Christopher Carley brings just as much to the movie as Eastwood. He is a man of the clothe who has thick skin, as those men should. He perseveres when another man in his position could have simply forsaken the promise he made to Walt’s wife. He stands tall no matter what Walt says to him and eventually he earns Walt’s respect. It is an incredible and touching relationship that makes the movie so much better. In the very small role he played I think John Carrol Lynch was excellent. He has played many roles but the main one that comes to mind was his role in Fargo where he was simply there, but still maintained an interesting presence. One of my favorite parts from him in this film is at Walt’s funeral in the end. When the young priest recounts what Walt first said to him it is crude and honest. When he says it you can see Lynch sitting behind Walt’s children in the audience and he is laughing. That was the Walt he knew and loved, it was the same Walt we as the audience knew and we can share in his delight.
The Asians portrayed in this movie are Hmong people from various parts of South East Asia. The actors that played the parts were great specifically Bee Vang and Ahney Her. Their culture is one that Walt lived a long time right next to but knew nothing about. Once he made the slightest attempt to understand it he saw that it was much more than he thought it was. As director Eastwood encouraged the Hmong actors to adlib lines in their native language and I think that added a lot to the script. Hmong people do not hail from one specific country but from a specific region that spans over a few countries including China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Many of us as Americans are just like Walt; we look at foreign people as if they do not belong. Yet who does? We are a nation made up of immigrants and it would benefit us all to keep that in mind before judging others. We judge before we know anything about what we are judging as we see in this movie. Walt is under the impression that Hmong is an actual place until Sue explains a little about her people to him.
The end of this movie is shrouded in tragedy but ends on a good note. Walt has the last laugh and he dies happy having given everything he had left to those that deserved it the most. We see his family role their eyes and exude disappointment at the reading of the will but they do not matter. That kid who really loved Walt is the one smiling and we are all smiling with him. This is a great movie that always reminds me I still have things to learn about life and that there is always hope others might eventually do the same. I encourage everyone to see this movie and I think it is more than worth your time.
I get sucked into this movie every time that we watch it. I think it is one of the most powerful movies of its kind. I love Clint Eastwood in this film. He is a total hardass that is actually a really good guy on the inside. Throughout the film we get to see him learn about another culture. He gains respect for theirs and loses respect for his own.
This was a teaser poster for the movie. I really, really like it. Clint Eastwood is classic. His silhouette is very recognizable. You know who it is and he looks stern and mysterious. I am ninety-five percent sure that the font “Gran Torino” is written in is Gotham. (It’s one of my all time favorite fonts. Clean, simple, and beautiful.) Overall I think the design for this movie was very well done.
NEXT MOVIE: Grandma’s Boy (2006)