Mystic River

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED R for Violence and Language
Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

Final Grade:

I haven’t cried in a movie theater since American Beauty, but I came awfully close last night. The film was Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, Mystic River. Rarely has a film brought us characters that are so wonderfully realized and powerful. They’re the kind of characters that, whether we like them or not, are so real that when pain comes to them, pain comes to us too.

We’re introduced to our three main characters as children, on a day that they would never forget. They are Sean, Jimmy, and Dave, and they get caught writing their names in a wet cement sidewalk. When a man in a suit with handcuffs pulls up and calls them out, they don’t think to question him, until after Dave has been whisked away alone in the back seat of their car. What follows is left up to our imagination for the most part, but it’s still one of the most horrifying scenes of recent memory.

We move forward to the present, and meet Sean, Jimmy, and Dave again, now adults. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a homicide detective trying his hardest to figure out what went wrong between him and his estranged wife, while working together with a cynical sergeant (Laurence Fishburne). When their small town is ripped apart by a gruesome murder, it’s Sean that must try and figure out what really happened.

Making the case no easy matter, is Jimmy (Sean Penn) who happens to be the father of the deceased girl. He also happens to have a troubled legal past, and to be a little “connected”. He uses this need in his need for vengeance, vowing to his dead daughter that he will catch and kill the murderer before the cops do.

The final cog is Dave (Tim Robbins), who we can tell has a few screws loose due to the incidents that were perpetrated against him as a child. He’s married to a woman named Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), who doesn’t know what to think when he comes home drenched in someone else’s blood…and then finds out that Jimmy’s daughter was killed that same night.

These three stars, with the probable exception of the always-stellar Robbins, have never been better in their careers. Brian Helgeland’s script gives them juicy material to work with, and they never miss a beat. Penn is especially good as the “lead”, and will most likely garner at least an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor. While I’m convinced he deserves it, I actually believe Robbins gives the film’s deepest and most meaningful performance, creating a character that’s so intriguing and confusing that we’re mesmerized by his every movement. The support of Fishburne is solid, and the only complaint about the cast that I have is Laura Linney as Jimmy’s wife, a character that’s never explored enough to make her final revelations not seem over the top.

I mentioned the characters’ revelations above, and that’s really what this film is about. The plot and mystery are interesting and well done (I solved it an hour in to the film sadly, but it was just a lucky guess). The climactic scenes are among the most tense and gripping moments I’ve ever seen on the screen. The credit for this belongs to Eastwood, who puts these scenes together amazingly well. His direction is meticulous and thorough, very deserving of the little Gold statue as well.

Mystic River is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen, in its plot and its characters. The final couple of scenes seem a little out of place upon first thought, but when you really realize what’s just happened to the characters it all fits well. Kudos should be given to all involved in this wonderfully articulate film, and here’s hoping to hear its name mentioned early and often on Oscar Night. Go see it now, because Mystic River is one of the best films in many years.

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