A few days ago I went, somewhat reluctantly (because I abhor violence – filmed or otherwise), to see Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, Gran Torino. It wasn’t what I expected (although there is a lot of violence) and I’ve found myself thinking about it a great deal.
It is very much a Catholic movie in tone and in theme and yet, as far as Google can tell me, Eastwood (who directs as well as acts) was raised in a Protestant home and has, in at least one interview, claimed to be an atheist. In Gran Torino (the film is named for a car his character built in 1972 on the Ford assembly line and still drives), Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a racist retiree living on a street being “taken over” by Southeast Asian families.
The film begins with the Requiem Mass for Kowalski’s wife. A baby-faced priest mouths platitudes during the homily and afterwards tells Kowalski that she made him promise her to get Kowalski to go to Confession. Kowalski summarily dismisses him and yet the priest, in his inept and somewhat goofy way, keeps appealing to Kowlaski throughout the film and, in the end, is judged by Kowalski (and by us) in a much kinder light.
Eastwood plays both towards and against type. There are “Dirty Harry” moments of outright political incorrectness which allow us some grimly ironic humor but there is also a lightness, a sweetness and a generosity of spirit that are all hugely appealing.
Much of what happens plot-wise is highly predictable and I guessed the ending well in advance, but for some reason images and ideas from the film have remained with me in the last few days. If you go to see this movie, or have already seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.