The Films of Clint Eastwood
Play Misty for Me
High Plains Drifter
The Eiger Sanction
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Gauntlet (January 20/10)
Armed with precisely the sort of laid-back pacing one has come to expect from director Clint Eastwood, The Gauntlet suffers from a pervasively muted atmosphere that effectively drains its more overtly thrilling interludes of their impact. The movie follows grizzled cop Ben Shockley (Eastwood) as he's assigned the task of escorting a foul-mouthed prostitute (Sondra Locke's Gus Malley) from Las Vegas to Phoenix, with problems ensuing as the bickering pair find themselves confronted with a series of increasingly deadly obstacles designed to prevent them from arriving at their final destination. It's an intriguing premise that's initially employed to promising effect by Eastwood, as the filmmaker - working from a script by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack - does a nice job of establishing the two central characters and their progressively precarious situation. Eastwood's typically relaxed approach to the material ultimately does more harm than good, however, with the film's positive attributes (ie the two leads' strong work) slowly but surely rendered moot in the face of an overlong running time and a dearth of genuinely compelling sequences. It's consequently not surprising to note that The Gauntlet, though essentially watchable throughout, is only truly compelling in fits and starts, as the movie is bogged down by an emphasis on hopelessly underwhelming encounters and situations - although, to be fair, Eastwood does offer up a handful of electrifying moments that elevate the proceedings on an all-too-infrequent basis (ie Ben narrowly rescues Gus from a trio of nasty bikers). The film's problems are exacerbated by an action-packed climax that's nothing short of preposterous (and not in a good way), which effectively cements The Gauntlet's place as a sporadically entertaining yet consistently unsatisfying thriller that's rarely up to the level of its two stars.
White Hunter Black Heart
The Rookie (August 1/16)
One of the worst films directed by Clint Eastwood, The Rookie follows grizzled cop Nick Pulovski (Eastwood) as he's forced to team up with straight-laced newbie David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen) to take down a notorious German criminal (Raul Julia's Strom). It's a sound (if well-worn) premise that's employed to consistently underwhelming effect by Eastwood, as the movie, which runs a punishing 120 minutes, suffers from an episodic narrative that consists mostly of tedious, pointless sequences (ie the entirety of the midsection is essentially devoted to Nick and David's investigation and their efforts at chasing down one clue after another). Neither Eastwood nor Sheen are able to transform their respective characters into interesting or even sympathetic figures, and it's clear, too, that the lack of chemistry between the mismatched pair ultimately plays a significant role in the movie's downfall. The sole saving grace of The Rookie is the ongoing inclusion of better-than-expected action sequences, with, especially, a climactic chase through a busy airport standing as an obvious highlight within the otherwise tedious proceedings. And while scripters Boaz Yakin and Scott Spiegel attempt to upend the viewer's expectations from time to time - there is, for example, an interlude in which Eastwood's character is raped (!!!) by Strom's sultry henchwoman (Sonia Braga's Liesl) - The Rookie mostly comes off as a generic, by-the-numbers buddy comedy that wastes the talents of everyone involved and sullies its director's fairly reliable filmography.
A Perfect World
The Bridges of Madison County
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Blood Work (August 9/02)
Clint Eastwood has been cranking out thriller after thriller over the last few years (True Crime and Absolute Power), and while he'll never be credited with reinventing the genre, he does know what it takes to create an effectively suspenseful and involving storyline. Though it'll never be compared with earlier Eastwood thrillers like In the Line of Fire and the Dirty Harry series, Blood Work is nonetheless an effective and surprising police drama revolving around his character's efforts at solving a brutal case involving a serial killer. Eastwood the director likes to take his time in telling stories, and this is certainly no exception. The story unfolds at a pace that's probably more realistic when it comes to solving crimes. We watch as Eastwood's Terry McCaleb investigates various clues, some leading nowhere. As he works his way towards revealing the identity of the killer, he begins to make some rather startling discoveries (even though he may be done with the past, the past sure isn't done with him). And while it's fairly easy to guess who the killer is (that beard is a fairly shoddy one), that in no way detracts from the enjoyability of the film. Blood Work does, however, feature yet another romance between Eastwood and a much younger woman. And while it didn't bother me too much, the audience I saw the film with couldn't resist giggling and groaning. It would have made far more sense to pair Eastwood up with the character of his doctor, played by Angelica Houston. While even she isn't as old as he is, they are a lot closer in age than the woman he eventually winds up with. And the conclusion is so action packed, it doesn't really fit in with the laid-back pace of the rest of the film. Still, Blood Work is an effective and clearly old-school type thriller that should appeal to older audiences and those who are tired of super fast-paced summer flicks.
Million Dollar Baby
Flags of Our Fathers (March 7/07)
Flags of Our Fathers marks filmmaker Clint Eastwood's first war-themed effort since 1986's Heartbreak Ridge, and although the movie suffers from an overlong running time and an unmistakable air of familiarity, the various performances and Eastwood's expectedly intriguing directorial choices make it easy enough to overlook such deficiencies. The film follows three soldiers (Ryan Phillippe's John Bradley, Jesse Bradford's Rene Gagnon, and Adam Beach's Ira Hayes) as they raise the flag at Iwo Jima and subsequently find themselves at the center of a worldwide media circus (Barry Pepper, Paul Walker, and Robert Patrick have small roles as fellow fighters). In employing a non-linear structure - the action oscillates between the battlefield and the soldiers' trials and tribulations back home - screenwriters William Broyles Jr and Paul Haggis have infused the proceedings with a thoroughly uneven vibe that ultimately prevents the film from stepping out of the shadows of thematically-similar forebearers such as Patton and Saving Private Ryan. That being said, there's certainly no denying the impact of the central characters' tumultuous efforts to adjust to their newfound fame - with such sequences anchored by the uniformly superb performances (Beach is particularly strong here). In the end, Flags of Our Fathers remains an entertaining yet strangely forgettable piece of work - ensuring that the film will likely never be added to the pantheon of great war flicks.
Letters from Iwo Jima
Gran Torino (January 19/09)
It's ultimately difficult to mistake Gran Torino for anything other than a Clint Eastwood film, as the director has infused the proceedings with as exceedingly deliberate a sensibility as one might've anticipated - yet there's little doubt that Eastwood's riveting performance proves instrumental in capturing (and sustaining) the viewer's ongoing interest. The filmmaker stars as Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War vet whose desire to be left alone following his wife's death is shattered with the arrival of a boisterous Hmong clan next door - as he finds himself slowly-but-surely drawn into a unexpected friendship with the troubled Thao (Bee Vang). Although Nick Schenk's screenplay contains a veritable bevy of less-than-subtle encounters and sequences, Gran Torino ultimately comes off as an affable endeavor whose old-fashioned, easy-going atmosphere effectively compensates for its lack of surprises. Eastwood's remarkably grizzled turn ensures that the film is at its best when focused on his character's exploits, as there's something undeniably compelling about Walt's entirely predictable transformation from irascible hermit to helpful neighbor. The end result is an effort that'll never be confused for one of Eastwood's better offerings as either an actor or a director, admittedly, yet it inevitably goes without saying that his mere presence here elevates the film on a consistent basis and proves effective in smoothing over its various deficiencies.
Hereafter (June 1/11)
Written by Peter Morgan, Hereafter follows three characters as they deal with issues of a decidedly spiritual nature: George (Matt Damon), a retired medium who is reluctantly drawn back into the psychic fray; Marcus (Frankie McLaren), a young boy reeling from the death of his twin brother; and Marie (Cécile De France), a successful reporter who must rethink her beliefs after surviving a deadly tsunami. Filmmaker Clint Eastwood kicks Hereafter off with an absolutely electrifying sequence revolving around the aforementioned tsunami, which, though effective at initially capturing the viewer's interest, admittedly does stand in sharp contrast to the subdued nature of everything that follows. Eastwood's notoriously deliberate sensibilities prove an ideal match for Morgan's somber screenplay, while Damon's spellbinding work ensures that the film is at its best when focused on his character's low-key comings and goings. (Damon is so good here, in fact, that the film's two other subplots suffer by comparison, as it does become increasingly difficult to work up a similar degree of enthusiasm for both Marcus and Marie's respective exploits.) Morgan's penchant for padding out the proceedings with sequences of a decidedly needless variety - eg Marcus visits with a succession of phony psychics - contributes heavily to the uneven atmosphere, yet there little doubt that by the time the three storylines converge in the movie's final act, Hereafter has certainly established itself as an engaging, sporadically enthralling drama that ranks as one of Eastwood's better efforts as of late.
Arriving hot on the heels of Hereafter, Clint Eastwood's most engaging and entertaining film in years, J. Edgar can't help but come off as an especially epic disappointment - as the film, which documents the life and times of the legendary FBI boss, suffers from an egregiously deliberate pace that highlights the deficiencies within Dustin Lance Black's needlessly convoluted screenplay. It's clear right from the outset that the biggest problem here is a pervasive lack of context, as Black, having eschewed overt instances of character development, stresses the minutia of Hoover's (Leonardo DiCaprio) day-to-day exploits both within the FBI and at home. And while some of this stuff is admittedly kind of interesting - eg Hoover fires a subordinate for refusing to shave his moustache - there's just never a point at which the viewer is able to actually, wholeheartedly care about any of this. The movie's hands-off atmosphere is compounded by its stop-and-start momentum, as Eastwood offers up a seriously plodding midsection that's almost entirely devoid of interesting (or even passable) sequences - with the only real exception to this the periodic emphasis on Hoover's surprisingly engrossing investigation into the Lindbergh kidnapping. Eastwood and Black's inability to effectively get inside Hoover's head ensures that the comparatively melodramatic, Brokeback Mountain-like final third comes off especially poorly, as the viewer has absolutely nothing invested in the friendship/relationship between Hoover and his closest confidant, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The end result is a colossal misfire that is, above all else, downright boring for much of its overlong running time, which is a shame, certainly, given the strength of Eastwood's visuals and DiCaprio's performance.
Sully (September 6/16)
Based on a true story, Sully follows Tom Hanks' Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger as he and his copilot (Aaron Eckhart's Jeff Skiles) are forced to land their commercial airliner in the Hudson River after both engines fail. It's perhaps not surprising to note that filmmaker Clint Eastwood has infused Sully with a deliberately-paced and thoroughly subdued feel, and yet it's clear that the movie often fares much better than one might've anticipated - with the strong performances and inherently compelling narrative compensating for Eastwood's somewhat erratic execution. It's clear, too, that Sully benefits substantially from Todd Komarnicki's time-shifting screenplay, as the film leaps backwards and forwards in time and documents the now-infamous crash from a variety of differing perspectives. (Hanks' Sully remains a consistent anchor, of course.) And while the jumbled structure doesn't always work - the midsection occasionally meanders to a somewhat palpable degree - Sully manages to paint a fairly vivid picture of an event with which most viewers are keenly familiar. The end result is a solid entry within Eastwood's relatively strong body of work, with the movie's sporadically clinical approach (eg a climactic NTSB meeting that feels longer than necessary) allayed by a continuing emphasis on engrossing images and sequences.
The 15:17 to Paris
Inspired by true events, The 15:17 to Paris follows three Americans (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos, all playing themselves) as they work together to stop a terrorist plot aboard a European train - with the movie, for the most part, unfolding in flashback and exploring the heroes' lives up to that point. It's well-intentioned subject matter that's handled, for the most part, rather poorly by Clint Eastwood, as the director delivers a slow-moving narrative that's rife with misguided and often laughable elements - with the film, for the most part, closer in spirit and tone to a small-screen, low-budget reenactment than a major motion picture. The biggest and most obvious problem here is the decidedly amateurish work by the movie's leads, as the three men, likeable as they may be, prove hopelessly unable to convincingly step into the shoes of their "characters" and deliver the copious dialogue contained in Dorothy Blyskal's less-than-subtle screenplay - which ultimately does ensure that the movie's hold on the viewer, for much of its running time, is tenuous at best. (It doesn't help, certainly, that Blyskal has suffused the proceedings with eye-rollingly overwrought instances of plotting, including an ongoing predilection for presenting the protagonists as infallible, Christ-like figures.) The low-rent vibe is nevertheless rarely as disastrous as one might've anticipated, and there's little doubt, as well, that the climactic attack is as visceral and exciting as anything within Eastwood's body of work, which ultimately does confirm The 15:17 to Paris' place as an erratic effort that really could and should have been so much better.