Disastrophe: Evaluating The Last Decade Of Clint Eastwood Films

06.19.14 5 years ago 94 Comments
Clint Eastwood. Icon. That’s two sentences in three words, efficient, but it’s important to impart here that no matter what follows, how much we righteously ding the man, well, he’s still done more than most actors or directors ever dream of. Right now we’re addressing the last decade of his work, 2005-2014, but the decade prior had him pumping out three legitimate films:

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Mystic River (2003)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

From the titles above, not to mention his historical contributions, he clearly brought skill to el table, though that unfortunately only serves to make the last decade all the more disappointing. To be fair, he’s 84, and by that age I’ll either be dead, in jail, or peeing myself. So while it’s gonna get ugly here, no one should think we’re deriding the man that is Clint. What we’re pondering, all interllectual-like, is the art itself.

But enough of being nice! Let’s filet this fish.

Note: All of the following titles were directed by Clint Eastwood with the exception of two: His speech to an empty chair and Trouble with the Curve. The first was important to note because it exemplified the lack of planning that’s haunted his recent efforts, the latter because it a) sucked and b) continued the forward momentum of Eastwood hating everything modern.

Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Critical Reception: 73 percent on RottenTomatoes (at this point Clint was still getting the soft pass treatment).
Concept: Well how DID the United States rally the general populace and fund that big ol’ fight?
Best Case: Glory meets Margin Call.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

GENERAL “HOWLING’ MAD SMITH”: [on the telephone] I was promised ten days of shelling. You’re giving me three and saying that’s the best you can do?… I don’t give a shit! My men hit that beach with less than ten, and I’ll be taking them home to their mamas in buckets!… Yeah, I know exactly why. Because every Navy man with scrambled egg on his chest wants to offload us here and sail to Japan so they can be there for the big finish, tell their kids they captured the Emperor all by themselves. Well, you aren’t going to Japan unless we take this piece of shit island! These little pricks are dug in… Okay, appreciate that, Jim. Three days is a f****** beautiful thing.

Execution: The guys were loathsome. Hard to care about a bunch of jerks going around the country selling war bonds. Eventually, people in my theater started cheering for the Axis powers. This was the first sign we were in trouble.

Letter from Iwo Jima (2006)
Critical Reception: 91 percent on RottenTomatoes (the ultimate “art” film that everyone knows no one will see, so why bother dinging it?).
Concept: Black and white trench warfare. Gritty. Gutsy. The boys getting it done.
Best Case: The Pacific meets The Thin Red Line.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

KURIBAYASHI: They’re off mark! Off mark! Too close to the line.
Kuribayashki anguishes as he watches the life-saving supplies drop into unreachable zones.
Soldiers spot the supplies parachuting. At first, they CHEER loudly. But as they land, the soldiers soon realize they are irretrievable. A few brave souls make a mad dash out towards the supplies, but they are easy targets and are immediately GUNNED DOWN.

Execution: GUNNED DOWN. That was about it. Meant to be a bookend to Flags of our Fathers, it was instead a bookend of toilet paper. The Japanese were shown as doomed, which was meant to be sympathetic, but it actually just came off as rah-rah patronizing. As in, “Man, these Japanese guys should just surrender to the most awesomest nation on Earth!”

Changeling (2008)

Critical Reception: 63 percent on RottenTomatoes
Concept: “You’re not going to believe this, but we got Angelina Jolie. Yeah! That one!”
Best Case: Prisoners meets Species.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

STEELE: Six days, Mrs. Collins, and no progress. We may have to go to more… strenuous therapies. (beat) Unless you’re willing to prove you’re doing better… by signing this.

He holds it up in front of her. She focuses first on it, then on him… and finally, her spine where it needs to be even if the rest of her is in shambles, looks at him and says:

CHRISTINE: F*** you….and the horse…you rode in on.

Execution: I mean, just look at that scene. They exchange her kidnapped little boy for a different one and everyone wants to call it good. Except for Jolie. She knows what’s up, and you can institutionalize her all you want, she’s gonna keep coming with the heavy attitude. The worst part of this film? It was more boring than offensive.

Gran Torino (2008)
Critical Reception: 79 percent on RottenTomatoes.
Concept: Old white dudes be racist, but they can come around!
Best Case: A fella’s lawn, and the getting off of said lawn.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

WALT: Get off my lawn.
SMOKIE: Listen, old man, you don’t want…
WALT: I said get off my lawn. Now.
Walt’s calm demeanor is unnerving to the gangbangers. The guns in their hands seem tiny compared to the big military rifle Walt holds.
SMOKIE: Are you f****** crazy? Go back in your house, old man.
WALT: Get off my lawn.

Execution: People often make the case that this is a solid film, and I won’t disagree [Vince’s Note: I unapologetically love it]. But it played to Eastwood’s strengths, being surly and one-note – which were the exact things that got him into trouble with every other film he had a hand in. So while you can appreciate Gran Torino it’s extremely difficult to make the case it’s in his top five, or really showed us anything new at all.

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