Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood's last film is set in Detroit in the current times. It looks like a normal, run-of-the-mill Eastwood film with a gravel-voiced loner "take'n it to 'em AMERICAN STYLE!" but that's not it at all.

The mood is one of loss.. there is a loss of repect in the disrepectful youth, cultural expectations, respect for authority, tradition, and elders. Eastwood is in a classic role of his, namely an isolated and self-reliant person that is under siege and hostile to those around him. with good reason, dude has seen war in Korea, only survivor from his squad.

life for this character is not good as his wife just died, he doesn't like his kids or grandkids, the new priest is too young, and his neighborhood has gone to hell. Eastwood is a giant racist at the start of the film, calling his neighbors Swamp Rats, gooks, and all sorts of other fun things.

however, after saving a kid the Asian Hmong community rallies around their reluctant hero. they invite him over and he doesn't want to try the food, but at the urging of the young lady and the line "it's better than eating jerky" he tries it and falls in love with the food, the family, and the culture. the culture is one of respect for elders and traditions that Eastwood was mourning the loss of in his own family.

this movie is a secular transpotion of an Christian theme, namely a commentary on John 15:13 "No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends." the package of problems is also traditionally Christian, namely isolation, guilt, separation from God and others. Through Eastwood's friendship with the two youth next door, he opens up and chages. this movie shows the power of confession and relational living.

God in this film is persistent. grace and love is not through the traditional channels, such as the church or family. here we also see a new family emerge, like that Jesus talked in Mark 3:35: "For whoever does the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." Jesus erases the biological bonds of family and replaces them with theological ones.

the mediators of healing in the film are flawed human beings, esp. evident in the transformation of Eastwood. there is mutuality and reciprocity with these relationships and everyone comes out better for it... well.. save one, but even then, who knows?

i hope you will watch this film and give me feedback. it was one of the most moving movies i have seen this year.


Anonymous said...

It is a very good story. Karmen and I watched it a couple of months ago. At first I taken aback by the racism, but as I stayed with it I eventually understood the point he was making about community, family, love. Interesting that you don't comment on the fact that Eastwood's character probably thought he was dying anyway because of his hemoptysis (coughing up blood). Does that change anything for you? Is his sacrifice not as great because of his realization? If this hadn't been part of the story, would that somehow change the positivity or negativity of his actions?

RJ said...

I loved this movie, too, Luke and sensed both the theme of loss as well as something about the way injustice/compassion can help us become our best selves inspite of ourselves... the sacrificial part of the film is not diminished by his cancer - in fact, I think it enriches it because he chose to give away his strength in a way that brought greater healing. thanks so much... and hearing clint sing the song at the end was waaaay powerful, yes?

Luke said...

@Doug: he would have died anyway, true, but on a long enough time line the survival rate of everyone drops to zero. how he CHOSE to go out speaks volumes.

@RJ: LOVED the Clint song at the end... VERY powerful, esp. with Tao driving the car at the end. just a great story.

Tit for Tat said...

Interestingly enough, wasnt he redeemning himself. Afterall his family had lost its(his) way. They no longer lived by values he once cherished. I think the asian family points that out to him and helps him remember who he once was and he thanks them in the end with his life.

Anonymous said...

John. That is a great realization that I did not get. Thanks.

Anglican Gurl said...

I have not seen this movie! I will have to, although I don't like Eastwood all that much.

Except for Million Dollar Baby. That was excellent. Keep the movies coming!