Mystic River BluRay
by Del Harvey
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Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 2004. It is a tough adaptation of Dennis LeHane’s novel, told in the kind of vernacular we have come to recognize as pure Eastwood. In Mystic River, the director unfolds a suspenseful and emotionally tortuous journey that sticks with the viewer long after the film is over. The old Hollywood veteran makes excellent use of a great cast and gritty camera work, allowing the look of the film to create a sense of calm that belies the tension and mistrust lurking just under the surface, just like the deep and roiling Mystic River itself.
The story is about around three childhood friends who grew up on the mean streets of Boston, forever bonded and scarred when one of them is abducted and sexually assaulted as a child. 20 years later Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-convict who has become respectable as the owner of a local grocery store; Dave (Tim Robbins) is a Handyman, and Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a Homicide Detective for the State. The three men are brought back together when Jimmy’s 19-year-old daughter is savagely murdered and left in an abandoned zoo. At this point the film could have turned into a Hollywood style murder mystery that is all too common; but instead Eastwood creates a story that is focused on the past and its keen effect on the characters. The film truly discovers the inner demons that live inside of these men and the women they have married.
As the investigation unfolds, we are able to see that each character is extremely guarded and secretive, this is most certainly due the their different motives in the situation. Jimmy wants to find the killer himself so he can act as judge, jury and executioner, Dave just wants to be removed from the situation because it challenges his inner demons, while Sean is trying to do his job as a cop, while remaining loyal to his two friends. One of the true catalysts in the investigation is Whitey (Laurence Fishburne), his only loyalty is to the law and this makes him eager to find the truth.
The performances in Mystic River are brilliant, and Sean Penn (Oscar for lead role) is in top form as the tortured father who is battling the past, while calmly searching for the perpetrator of this terrible crime. He brings a sense of sincerity to Jimmy that is completely unexpected; at one point he is talking to Dave (Tim Robbins - Oscar for a supporting role) about his inability to cry for his daughter while the tears are falling down his face, this was very hard to watch. Kevin Bacon finds a new peak in his career with his performance as Sean, whose ambivalence about investigating this crime is all too clear. We are also able to see how he struggles with the departure of his wife who calls him but refuses to speak. Laura Linney’s speech to her husband (Penn) at the end of the film brings back memories of Lady Macbeth. Marcia Gay Harden also gives a strong performance as Dave’s nervous wife; her unease brings about terrible results. Laurence Fishburne is perfect as Whitey, Bacon’s cop partner, who shows no emotion towards the character’s suffering, which might be expected from a man of the law, but even more interesting is the dichotomy between himself and Bacon’s character.
This is clearly a triumph for Clint Eastwood. It is clear that he had an amazing relationship with the actors and was able to get complete loyalty and commitment from each of them. Eastwood also wrote the score and it serves as yet another character in the film, with each new emotion a fresh chord amplifying the emotion and tension within the scene. Eastwood never lets the audience down, constantly forcing the viewer to think about the struggles that exist within the main characters and how they affect their friends, family, and their community. Mystic River deserves its Oscar status, and it is great to see it presented here in all its high def glory.
Included on the BluRay disc are the following special features:
Mystic River releases on February 02, 2010.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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