Gran Torino: a World Magazine review

With three young kids, my husband and I don’t get a lot of opportunity to go out and watch movies in a theater anymore. I think last year we saw two of them, one in November and the other in December. When we get the chance to do the dinner and a movie thing, we want that time on our own spent watching a quality film. One movie we would love to see if we get the chance is Gran Torino. Ed Morrissey saw it and offered his review at Hot Air. Another review I just read is at World Magazine, one of my favorite sources for movie reviews because they offer excellent analysis of movies from a Christian world view that I appreciate and their review of Gran Torino is no exception. Here is a portion:

As Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, Eastwood offers us a thoroughly unlikable character who manages, even in his unrepentant racism, to win our favor. He pulls this trick off by, first, realistically addressing the culture clashes that are as annoying as they are unavoidable in a melting pot like ours and, second, by depicting the ugly side of middle-class America just as much as he depicts the gang-violence typical of poor immigrant neighborhoods.

Want to take exception with the use of the word ugly to describe part of our modern heartland values? Then consider sons and daughters who push their elderly father to shut himself away in an age-restricted community where they will only have to visit him on the odd holiday and he will relinquish all responsibility to impact upcoming generations. Consider parents who place the acquisition of mini-mansions with new granite countertops above raising children who understand that such riches are not their natural-born right. It’s not pretty, and neither is Walt, but he is made more so in that he doesn’t pull punches no matter what group he’s assaulting, not even his own.

The reviewer, Megan Basham, argues that Clint’s film offers a realistic depiction of racism and asks us some uncomfortable questions:

[R]ather than merely imparting an exhilarating sense of justice, these trademark elements are also used to cast light on some uncomfortable questions: Is clinging to every bit of nostalgic Americana really patriotic, or is it sometimes exclusionary? Do some immigrants fail to assimilate because they don’t want to or because natural-born citizens fail to reach out to them? It is precisely because of his status as an icon of heartland masculinity that Eastwood is able to take on this sensitive subject with far more integrity (not to mention authenticity) than films like 2004’s Crash managed. Instead of a quick and shallow snapshot of various incarnations of racism, Gran Torino digs deep and shows that racism is not, as Crash implied, a special sin of the United States. It is a general sin of man whose fallen instinct is to horde his resources and establish superiority.

Gran Torino earns its R rating with the most obscenities and racial invective this side of a Quentin Tarantino movie. But unlike the films of lesser directors, the language here is rarely window dressing. Though a few exchanges strike a gratuitous note, it would be impossible to convey the spiritual evolution of the bitter, godless, and racist Walt Kowalski without making him sound, well, bitter, godless, and racist. In a twist that elevates Gran Torino far above the typical vengeance-wreaking flick, Walt discovers that the greatest satisfaction comes not from proving you were right but from sacrificing to right your wrongs.

I’m not sure when we will get another opportunity to see a movie in a movie theater, but when we do it will be this one, as long as it’s still playing.

I recommend reading the entire full review in the January 31st edition of World Magazine. You can find an abridged version at World Magazine online here.

Fool Mental Junket
In memory of Daniel Thomas Jempty