5 Of Clint Eastwood’s Best Movies

2) Mystic River

Eastwood’s next major critical success came 11 years after Unforgiven in an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River. Like his previous award-winning movie, this one is carefully paced, although there’s actually a surprising amount of stuff going on at once, quite a number of plates in spin at a time. It works as one part criminal procedural, one part psychological drama, and one part emotional tragedy. And you have three principal characters who inhabit each other those three dimensions at various points throughout the movie.

This is an example of Eastwood’s so-called minimalist style giving way for possible false perceptions that minimalism in final output equals minimal thought and effort. The mechanisms seem more apparent years later, with the performances of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins seeming somewhat less subtle than they came off 10 years ago at the time of the film’s original release, but they’re certainly no less powerful now than they were then. Also commendable about this film is the role of place, the setting of Boston. By now, with movies like The Departed and The Fighter, the idea that the city of Boston (and area) has its own character that comes to inhabit a film’s tone is commonplace. But Mystic River makes this a factor before it was chic, and perhaps in a more understated way. It’s all masterfully done and draws you in without even seeming like it’s trying, causing you to ask all sorts of moral questions that have no easy answers.

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