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One of the highest-grossing Clint Eastwood films,which he has called his last as an actor,comes with a great load of expectations...

Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi |
June 13, 2009 2:14:10 am

CAST: Clint Eastwood,Christopher Carley,Bee Vang,Ahney Her
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

One of the highest-grossing Clint Eastwood films,which he has called his last as an actor,comes with a great load of expectations. All of which shows in Gran Torino’s every frame. There isn’t a shot here where Eastwood isn’t trying to convey a message or meaning,to leave you impressed or marvelling. With a thin shred of a story and some heavy-duty clichés,he laboriously puts together the picture of a cantankerous,old and lonely man,haunted by ghosts of the war,who nobody understands till complete strangers do.

On literally his death bed,coughing up blood no less,Walt (Eastwood) makes new friends,opens up his world view and finds a new meaning in life as well as death. 

While the craggy-faced Eastwood has got the role of the grumpy old man down to a tee,and you know what he is getting at,for this film to get anywhere beyond a well-wrought and quite long piece on disparate communities and cultures meeting and finding they had more in common than they ever realised,there had to be reciprocal acting from the other side. However,from the red-haired,fresh-cheeked priest who keeps chasing Walt for a confession at the request of his now dead wife,to the Korean neighbours whom he keeps insulting,all are cardboard clichés.

One even understands that behaving like he does comes naturally to Walt,that according to him,real man-talk involves insults,especially racial remarks. That’s what suggests camaraderie. However,the fact that the teen Korean neighbour is so meekly gullible to it all is a little hard to swallow. 

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Everyone willingly takes Walt’s meanness as a sign of some greater good,though his own family has had enough of it. There’s little to indicate that Walt’s sons are at fault any more than he is,or that what puts Walt apart is his ability to pull out a gun and hold it,steady and snarling,to the faces of strangers (in this case gangs which come in all races and colours). Yes,even old and withered,there is just one Dirty Harry. But this certainly isn’t Eastwood at his best.

3.10 TO YUMA
CAST: Russell Crowe,Christian Bale,Ben Foster,Peter Fonda
DIRECTOR: James Mangold

They couldn’t be more different. Ben Wade (Crowe) is an outlaw who has had a string of good fortune lately and who commands the complete,unquestioning loyalty of his gang of dreaded dacoits. Dan Evans (Bale) is a rancher who is completely out of luck,with barely enough to keep his wife and children fed and whose elder son has come to lose all respect for him. But when their paths cross one day,and Dan takes up the dangerous job of delivering Ben to prison for $200,they meet their true match in each other.

What starts off as just another Western with some great action on horses is lifted by the sheer acting by Crowe and Bale to a moving story about the strange kinships which develop between men and the changes these engineer,which neither could have fathomed. A remake of a 1957 film,it is based on a story by Elmore Leonard.  

Evading Wade’s own men (particularly his fiendish second man Charlie Prince,played with maniacal relish by Ben Foster),the “dangerous” Apaches and battling the terrain — on the way to catch the 3.10 to Yuma,which will take the outlaw to certain death — the two never lose sight of their own goals,though they come around to question the same and to understand why the other one stands where he does.

While Mangold (Girl,Interrupted; Walk the Line) keeps a firm hand on the film’s pacing,moving it along briskly,it’s in the climax that he completely soars. It’s a long one — with Ben and Dan spending their last hour together in a hotel’s bridal suite,surrounded by death from all sides ¿ but it’s certainly worth the wait.

CAST: Soran Ebrahim,Avaz Latif,Saddam Hossein Feysal,Abdol Rahman Karim
DIRECTOR: Bahman Ghobadi

War comes in many forms,colours,sizes,and horrors. In this Kurdish film,it comes in the shape of children making their living picking landmines from fields and selling them. The ones who lose limbs in the process shed fear and are considered the bravest of the lot.

Based in a Kurdish village on the Iraq-Turkey border just before the latest war hit the region,Turtles Can Fly was released in 2004 (the first film made in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s fall). But,as Bahman Gohbadi’s “boy who makes predictions” foretells in the film,really little has changed five years later.

With the villagers starved of any real news,a boy called Soran (Ebrahim) who knows how to fix antennas,put up a satellite dish and speak a smattering of English has become the most-wanted person in the region. They all call him “Satellite”,and he revels in his job.

His other occupation is leading “his boys” in picking mines,which he then sells after what he calls a “hard bargain” to foreigners (actually a Kurdish anti-mining expert).

If the irony of them risking their lives picking “American,good-quality mines”,while waiting for the USA to come and save their world occurs to them,they don’t remark on it. In a film that seems to be strikingly pro-US,there are enough hints that George Bush isn’t likely to change many things.

Satellite’s world turns upside down when a girl (Latif) with her brother (Karim) and a child lands in the village after her family has been killed by Saddam’s troops,on their way across the border. He fancies her,carries water for her on his bike that “is normally used by villagers to take their brides home”,and promises to fetch her red fish from a forbidden spring. However,she bears a war wound that won’t heal,and one she can’t talk about with anyone.

Ghobadi gets heart-breaking performances from his child stars,including the baby who can’t see. Like children everywhere,they are not desolate or despairing — they seize happiness where they can find,and make it where they can’t.

But this is a world bigger and much beyond them. As the war finally catches up with Satellite too,one of his loyalists gets him an arm from the famous felled statue of Saddam,telling him: “Americans have told us to stop collecting mines. They are saying collect these — these are very precious.”

CAST: Zac Efron,Matthew Perry
DIRECTOR: Burr Steers

Before you dismiss this as yet another cruel joke played on those of us stumbling in our mid-30s and over,think again. Efron actually makes this film likable,turning on charm in full volume to have us fall for it all — his going back to high school,taming the school bully,coming to the rescue of own children,and finally wooing back one-time high-school sweetheart and now estranged wife all over again.

Not all of us can be 17 again. But few of us can grudge Perry turning into Efron.

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