Mystic River (2003)

Three childhood friends drift apart after a terrible occurrence, are brought together when the daughter of one of the men is missing. However all three men no longer trust each other and each have something they’re hiding and what seems like ulterior motives.

Mystic River as a film is pretty average in almost every aspect. This doesn’t feel like a passion project for Clint Eastwood, and as such the shots and scenes look very average, and quite honestly could have been done by anyone. Eastwood is pretty notorious for doing as few shots as possible, sometimes even only doing one take before moving on to the next scene. This is a detriment in films like ‘Gran Torino’ where the kids really struggled with their acting, however in this film, when Eastwood has as much fantastic talent and a damn well written script that these elements combined truly elevate the film from mediocrity.

This film is one of few that I’d consider an acting showcase, every actor in the film gives it their all and because of that we’re given some tremendously powerful performances, especially from the three leads. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon are given unique, complex characters and they all slide into them flawlessly. Tim Robbins especially, at times he was unrecognisable in the film and some of his final scenes are breathtaking. Discounting the three leads, the supporting cast give career best performances. Laurence Fishburne as a no-bullshit detective, Marcia Gay Harden as the wife to Tim Robbins, is by far the most powerful of the women in the film and her portrayal is heartbreaking. Tom Guiry also gets a special mention because a pivotal scene is centralised around him and a poor actor wouldn’t have had the same emotional thump to the heart that Guiry delivers.

The script is also very well written, complex but still believable and realistic, there are a few moments that give pause as they seem out of place, but it doesn’t have any major effect on the quality of the film. The dialogue is sharp, which when performed by these fantastic actors, every word feels genuine. The mystery aspect of the film is very well done, as the story unfolds and the audience is taken deeper down the path of what happened, the film starts to build tension expertly. When the final revelation comes to light, it is a huge relief but also having seen what has happened before, it’s stomach turning.

There were some side stories added that seemed superfluous to the film and either were expanded upon more in the book, or were added to add depth to Kevin Bacon’s character. Every time his wife called the film crashed into tediousness, even though the scenes didn’t last very long it was still a snap out of the mystery to something that in the end, amounts to nothing.

The ending, after everything has been said and done, just doesn’t sit right. It genuinely feels like a cop-out for what could have been a more impactful ending, even still the film could have ended almost immediately when the audience finds out what happened, to leave the audience with a sinking feeling. Instead they decided to go with a non-ending, which ruined a lot of impact the film had built up the past two hours.


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