Apparently, being in a boxing film is all you need to garner some serious award consideration. Robert De Niro and Raging Bull are the prime example, but so are Hilary Swank and this one, Million Dollar Baby, for which she won Best Actress, and the film itself won Best Picture as well. Not to downplay the film’s good qualities, which are numerous; it was just a funny thought that came to mind when I caught this one. This and Mystic River are the films that put Clint Eastwood back on the map after a bit of a dry spell, and he has lost none of his skill.
Eastwood both directs and stars in this one, as he would do often in his older films, and he shows great finesse in both his roles. He stoically lets the action play out, keeping the focus on the characters and little else while having the film stay silent and purposeful in its execution and style. Eastwood would also win for Best Director for this, and I can see why, even if I haven’t decided if I agree or not. This would also be the film that would finally win Morgan Freeman an Oscar; his prodigious talents are put to full use here, including having him be the voice-over narrator. Where the film truly succeeds is in setting its mood and sustaining it. I was gritting my teeth through much of the action, which was a testament to the film’s raw power and effect, and even during the sombre third act, the film never loses sight of the story it wants to tell.
This is a very moving film that touches on a subject most people would shy away from, and handles it with care and affection. I won’t spoil anything, though in the wake of awards season for this one most of us were spoiled anyway, but still, go into this knowing as little as you can, and it’ll surprise you. It might be a bit unnerving to have the story take such a change in the final act, but the film isn’t about the change itself; it’s about the characters, and their changes, and the last act doesn’t change any of that. This is a solid film all around, and one that is easily recommendable to a fairly wide audience.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10