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Eastwood crafts a powerful masterpiece

Rama Gottumukkala, Assistant Scene Editor | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Clint Eastwood will forever be typecast as an American film legend for his work in some of the greatest Westerns that Hollywood had to offer, specifically for the 1992 film Unforgiven. Eastwood has since strayed from that genre to direct films like the acclaimed Bridges of Madison County and the mediocre films Blood Work and Space Cowboys. It has been more than a decade since his Oscar-win for best director in Unforgiven, but his latest effort, Mystic River, is a tour de force for his directing abilities and he weaves an emotional powerhouse that delves into the darker side of human emotions.

Childhood friends Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) have drifted apart over time despite continuing to live in the same rough neighborhood in Boston. Their distance is due to a disturbing and violent episode that occurred during their childhood when one of them was captured by a child molester. Even now, as adults married with kids, they have never managed to overcome their fear and guilt about what happened. Dave, now a handyman, and his wife, Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), still live next door to Jimmy, who is an ex-con operating a corner store and is married to Annabeth (Laura Linney), his second wife and a very tough woman, and has three daughters.

When Jimmy’s oldest daughter is brutally murdered, the homicide investigation is led by Sean and his partner Whitey (Laurence Fishburne). But when the difficult and disturbing investigation doesn’t seem to be progressing, Jimmy gives the police a deadline to solve the case or threatens to take matters into his own hands. The three protagonists soon find themselves embroiled in a web of lies and secrets as the film heads to its chilling conclusion.

Eastwood and his production crew managed to cull a winning cast composed of veteran actors who are all at the top of their game in this dark drama. Of the six principal actors, five have been nominated for an Oscar in the past. Every one of them has proved to be perfectly capable of carrying a Hollywood film on their own, but in this case they are cast in roles that play to their individual strengths and the film boasts an undeniable chemistry among the cast mates, especially between the triumvirate of Penn, Bacon and Robbins.

The dynamics between the three principal actors form the backbone for the film as each has his own inner demons to wrestle with – demons that throughout the film seem on the brink of engulfing each of them once and for all. The film does an excellent job of exploring the darker side of human emotions and how we can never truly escape the consequences of our past as it forges us into the men and women we will always be.

The scene where Penn discovers that his eldest daughter has been murdered is one of the most harrowing scenes in any film of recent memory. Restrained by a legion of police officers, every line of Penn’s face is etched with smoldering rage and helplessness as he realizes that he was unable to protect the one person who forced him away from his previous criminal lifestyle and inspired him along the difficult journey to becoming a doting father and husband.

Mystic River is nothing short of a complex, haunting masterpiece that will likely stay in the minds of audiences for some time to come.

Contact Rama Gottumukkala at rgottumu@nd.edu