With the upcoming release of “Hereafter,” I felt the urge to look back at the last time Clint Eastwood played with mystery and drama behind the camera. To no surprise, “Mystic River” came to mind as this 2003 film thrilled audiences and more importantly Oscar voters, on its way to six nominations in virtually all the major categories, including Best Picture. And while it only won two of those six, it still reigns as one of the best that year and the ideal DVD to grab at your local retail outlet or on-line at Netflix.com

The movie is the story and the story is the movie in this one and that’s exactly how Clint Eastwood likes it.  The film is based on the best-selling novel by the same name written by Dennis Lehane.  It centers on three childhood friends, who after not speaking to one another for years cross paths when one of the men’s daughter’s is murdered.  The three men, Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon) and Dave (Tim Robbins) have been somewhat distant from one another for years, dating back to a day they all would like to forget.  The three, then 13-year-old boys, were out playing street hockey in their neighborhood outside Boston when they were confronted by a man in a car who claimed to be a cop.  After a brief scolding, the strange man takes one the boys, Dave, and carts him off in his car.  From that very moment, the boy’s lives changed forever, only they didn’t realize that until they were brought together 25 years later at the expense of Jimmy’s daughter’s tragic death. So, while the mystery of who killed Jimmy’s daughter developed, so to did the mystery of our three main characters lives’ which ultimately is where this story shined the longer you watched it unfold. 

Anytime you put Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon in the same film, you’re bound to succeed in some way. All three of these actors were put into some incredible roles by Clint Eastwood too, allowing each of them to express their true talents. Sean Penn was great in one of his typical emotional roles where we see him crying. His character Jimmy was the neighborhood “tough-guy,” so this film allowed us to see Penn play a mourning father, as well as a father who had to take care of his family in a time of need. Supporting Penn was Robbins, who in my opinion was absolutely brilliant in this film, making you forget about the amazing work he did in “Shawshank Redemption.” Playing a character that fights within his own mind is never easy, but Robbins did this with ease solidifying his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year. As for Bacon, he’s again in a role we recognize and love him in as the hard-nosed cop pursuing a tough homicide case.  Other notables are Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden, who play the wives of Penn and Robbins respectively. And finally the man people love to forget, Laurence Fishburne, who played Sean’s (Bacon) partner Whitey, making a great compliment to Bacon’s character.  

The longer I watch Clint Eastwood behind the camera, the more I like, but it hasn’t always been that way. Starting with this film, Eastwood has slowly been winning me over with one great film after another. Clearly an extremely talented director, Eastwood knows how to incorporate the right amount of emotion into his films. This was true with “Mystic River,” a film that had you caught up in the drama from start to finish.  And the best part is; Eastwood really didn’t have to use any complicated special effects or CGI in this film.  The story almost told itself thanks to an incredible script penned by Brian Helgeland, taking the words from Dennis Lehane and propelling them to the big screen.  I’m not downplaying Eastwood in anyway; I’m only pointing out that sometimes the best emotion can be seen with simple moviemaking, which in this case gives you one solid film from start to finish. 

B

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