DIRECTED BY Clint Eastwood
STARRING Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon
Opens October 17, Cert 15, 137 mins
Following some unconvincing recent outings as a director, Clint returns to form in a major way with this intelligent, probing adaptation of Dennis Lehane's formidable crime novel. Over three decades behind the camera have honed Eastwood's skills to what must be as close to perfection as one can get; here, that experience combines with strong source material to give us his finest work since the powerful one-two punch of 1992's Unforgiven and 1993's A Perfect World. In fact, the brooding tone and moral ambiguity of those films mark them as close companions to Mystic River, which runs deep with past sins, violence, revenge, regret and destiny.
The story grabs you straight away. Three young friends—Jimmy, Dave and Sean—are playing hockey in the street when two men posing as plain-clothes cops pull up, give the boys a talking-to and take Dave away. What happens to him after he gets into their car has a bearing on events some 30 years later, long after the boys have grown up and—despite still living in the same Boston neighbourhood—grown apart. Dave (Robbins) is one of the walking wounded after his abduction; Jimmy (Penn) is a liquor-store owner with criminal connections; and Sean (Bacon) is now a detective. The three men are reunited by another tragedy, the murder of Jimmy's daughter (Emmy Rossum)—for which Dave becomes the prime suspect.
Mystic River feels like a gathering storm. You sense something devastating brewing from the off, the atmosphere growing increasingly charged as Dave, Jimmy and Sean are forced to confront each other and their individual and shared pasts. Eastwood's style is as lean and elegant as ever; he doesn't need to trick the viewer into staying hooked but he knows how to make each scene and performance count (which really means something when your cast also includes Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney). It's rare with a mainstream studio film to feel that you're watching complex, credible people—but that's what Eastwood and his actors have achieved, and it's what makes this film uniquely thrilling.
Rating: 4 / 10