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March 8, 2004 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Mystic River

Mystic River is the latest film by the iconic Clint Eastwood. His films often deal with the darker side of the American dream, and for this film he brings together a powerhouse cast that includes Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon (this movie will be good for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon), Sean Penn, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney and Laurence Fishburne.

The script by Brian Helgeland, based on the Dennis Lehane novel, has a strong touch of Shakespeare in it. The staple tragic themes of death, blood revenge, fate and missed opportunities strongly feature. It revolves around three childhood friends whose friendship is torn apart by one of them, Dave, being abducted and sexually molested. Now in the present, Dave (Robbins) is a troubled, introverted man. Jimmy (Penn) runs a convenience store, but has a shady past of crime. The third friend (Bacon) is a policeman, whose wife has just walked out on him.

The friends are brought back together by the murder of Jimmy’s daughter. This results in guilt, suspicion, obsession and revenge amongst not only the former friends, but also their partners and the general community.

This has the potential to become seriously overwrought. There is little humour in it but Eastwood does an admirable job keeping the tone subtle and convincing. The restrained editing style heightens the intensity and allows greater scrutiny of the characters. He is helped considerably by the cast, who are uniformly good, with Robbins and Penn especially strong.

The conclusion seems to illustrate the failure of violence to achieve redemption. Sure Jimmy exacts revenge, but at what cost? The film certainly ends ambiguously – if Jimmy has achieved his revenge, what about others who would now suffer due to his actions? If he gets away with it, can others do the same to him? Thus, the violence that he started now seems destined to continue perpetually.

The film has two main components to it: a police procedural aspect and the character exploration. Sometimes it seems the film cannot decide which aspect it is focusing on. As a result, certain parts seem unconvincing, such as the climax to the police procedural part and Laura Linney’s Lady Macbeth-like speech at the end. However, the study of guilt is highly convincing, and is a complex portrayal, uncommon in mainstream cinema.

Directed by: Clint Eastwood


About the Author ()

Brannavan Gnanalingam has come a long way from being born in the teeming metropolis of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He may be known as feature writer for Salient, but is also the only man in history to have simultaneously donated both his kidneys. He is also an amateur rapper going under the moniker Brantank and hopes to win a Grammy.

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