Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rover Film Review: Gran Torino

I thought I'd start taking a look at what a college-aged, Catholic, Conservative thought of what Hollywood produces these days. I love movies, especially movies that make you think or challenge you. So, without further ado, hopefully the first in a series of film reviews.

Gran Torino (R for language throughout and some violence)

Actors: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Abney Her.
Director: Clint Eastwood

This film, for me, is a film about redemption and family. Walt (Eastwood) is a grizzled, Korean-war veteran and former Ford assemblyman who remained aloof from his two sons and now, following the death of his wife, lives alone in an increasingly immigrant neighborhood. As the film progresses, the Hmong family next door becomes everything that Walt's family isn't: respectful, caring, and ultimately loving. By the end, Walt's constant spewing of racial epitaphs and profanity is more out of habit and grudging love than the hatred seen at the beginning of the movie.

The character of Walt is also a Catholic who doesn't have time for the young priest and his "mumbo-jumbo." However, their relationship also changes as the film advances towards one of respect and ultimately mutual learning and understanding. The sacrament of Reconciliation is discussed in detail and ultimately upheld.

Gran Torino ends with a huge allusion to Jesus Christ and it is his redemptive qualities that end up shining through the harshness of Eastwood's excellent portrayal of a man who struggles to come to grips with the horrors of war. If Valkyrie is a film about men who stood up to stop the extreme horror of Hitler, then Gran Torino is a film about a man who rises to the challenge to stop the terror in his own neighborhood. It powerfully illustrates the opportunity we all have to redeem ourselves in our everyday lives, to be extraordinary people in an ordinary way.

I do have a couple gripes about the story and film at large. Walt's relationship with his two sons could be better resolved at the end, although the Hmong neighbors do gradually fulfill that role. In addition, I found Eastwood's singing at the end a tad overly-sentimental. Other than that, Gran Torino, while rough when it comes to language, is an above-average film with exellent acting, a good story, and a powerful message of salvation and respect.