Type: Review
Pages: 5 | Words: 1478
Reading Time: 7 Minutes

1. Gran Torino is an action drama produced and directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood who plays the major role of a retired Korean War veteran marred by the anguish of losing his wife. He is depicted as a very embittered character owing to the changes brought about by the loss of his wife. What makes it even worse for Kowalski is the fact that his once treasured white neighbourhood has now changed so much and the majority of the people living there are now Asians. This change creates a very uncomfortable scenario for Kowalski especially with the next door Hmong family. Depressed by the death of his wife, Kowalski lives with his cherished Labrador which has replaced his otherwise strained relationship with his two sons. Since he has no family left, his dearest possession is his Gran Torino, Ford.

This film is set in a crime prone high class estate in Michigan where a gang of teenagers do everything to woo a Hmong teenager named Thao into crime. They forcefully set him out to steal the Gran Torino; unfortunately, Kowalski gets him in the action and almost shoots him. Kowalski looks at his neighbours as immigrants who stink and he constantly takes issue with them over almost everything. This is the major theme in this entire film-racial discrimination. In the second scene of the film when Kowalski is seated on his porch drinking his cooler beer, he looks at the neighbor who is also seated on the veranda and they exchange insults.

The Asian is heard asking Kowalski what he is still doing in the neighbourhood when all other “asses” left. The theme of racial segregation is further seen when Kowalski takes Thao to the barbershop with the intention of teaching him how to master the art of racial insult normally a friendly exchange between the older classes in the society. It is until Thao tries it, that the barber hits up and from the oblivion produces a shotgun. This clearly sends the idea that ethnic comedy and friendly exchange of insults is only conducted by the white elders and not any Tom, Dick or Harry.

2. This film has employed a very excellent use of the mise en scene, at least to the extent that telling this particular story is concerned. In the church service during the sending-off service of Kowalski’s wife, there is a very excellent use of a high angle shot that isolates Kowalski from the rest of the congregation. This shot places him in a situation where he seems over burdened by the trouble of losing his wife. The priest has also been framed in such a way that isolates him using a low angle medium shot that shows his authority in consoling the bereaved. At one point in time in the same scene, there is a close up shot of Kowalski and his family that effectively bring out the bereavement in their eyes. This is a followed by an extreme close up shot of Kowalski who we later on come to learn that he was really struggling listening to the supercilious sermon of a young priest owing to the fact that he is only patient for the sake of his wife.

The narrative of this film takes a very linear and chronological style. There is a systematic flow of events in the entire film beginning from the funeral service scene in the opening scene, to the attempted burglary by Thao, through to the cordial relationship created between Kowalski and the Hmong and finally to the climax where Kowalski is shot by the gang. There is very minimal use of flashback mainly aimed at showing the good olden days when Kowalski treasured living in his neighourhood. Essentially, the failure to use many flashbacks has given this film a linear story line that is easy to follow throughout the film thereby making it easy for the audience to understand.

There has also been a very keen disposition of the cinematographic technique used in this film. There is a lot of low key lighting perhaps to create mood. This is especially used in the scenes where Kowalski is the main focus. For instance, when he is visited by the priest in his house, there is systematic use of lighting; Kowalski is half illuminated whereas the priest is fully illuminated. This in my opinion is used to show the extent to which Kowalski is depressed whereas the priest depicts hope at the end of the tunnel. There is also low key lighting when Thao sneaks into the garage to steal the Gran Torino: this gives the entire scene authenticity and realism as one can only agree that the source of lighting was indeed key in giving the entire scene authenticity.

Most notably for me in this entire film is the scene where Kowalski was shot dead by the gang. There was a variety of shots mixed up together to create a very realistic look. There is a particular gun shot that goes through his body before he falls dead, there is detail in this shot when he falls helplessly and immediately there is a very high angle pan that shows Kowalski lying helplessly on the ground. This has further been enhanced with the use of a very slow soundtrack that creates a somber mood in the scene.

It should be noted that this film takes a rather slow pace; perhaps this is necessitated by the fact that the motivation of the entire film is perhaps the “second life” of a retired veteran soldier. This film is purely cantered on the life of Kowalski and in my opinion it is the major factor that determined the pace of the film. The film also employs linear editing that is strictly followed throughout the film; the story is told in a simplistic way that has been enhanced by linear editing. However, there are those particular scenes where the director employed jump cuts and action cut editing in order to enhance the story.

For instance, in the scene where Thao helps Kowalski in fixing the roof, there is a very smooth transition of shots that gives continuity of action. When Kowalski saves the Hmong from the gang, there is continuity editing as depicted in the scene when the Hmong’s offer him gifts. This kind of editing has greatly helped in giving the entire film a beautiful look. There is a rather careful use of jump cut editing, this has been employed in the scenes where the gang attack for instance when they shoot at the Hmong house.

I must admit that the locations used in this film give it a very ostensible look; the houses used depict a very high class neighbourhood. I was particularly awed by Kowalski’s garage which is a typical deserted garage, there is littering of old metals where there stands the vintage Gran Torino which is also covered in a rather old white canvas. The Hmong house is another interesting house particularly during the birthday party. There was a particular shot of the food on the table that shows a typical Asian lifestyle. There is also this shot when Thao is confronted by the gang in an alley with wire mesh and grown grass that gives this scene a ghetto look. Generally speaking, the art direction in this film to say the least is super authentic as it is unique to the storyline.

3. Clint Eastwood is known for high adrenaline films that somewhat depict the day to day expectation and happenings in the society as seen in his earlier movies like Million Dollar Baby. In this particular film, he challenges the declining role of American men as well as questions the role of religion in bringing up an upright society. As it is his style, there is a late-career preoccupation well crafted into a story that has engaged a rather youthful cast enhanced by naturalistic acting in the characters especially the non professional cast of the Hmong family.

4. In my opinion, Gran Torino is a film that highlights a rather not familiar issue owing to the fact that its central focus is the old character in the name of Kowalski who seems to be running the show. Its tempo makes it a boring film as a well. Clint Eastwood does a lot to make this film an interesting through his fluid and natural acting so do the other characters.

It is a film that will stand the test of time owing to the fact that racial segregation and ethnic issues are worldwide dilemmas that should be addressed in a way that will be pleasing or appealing to individuals, herein this film. In a nutshell, Gran Torino is an average film with an average script thanks to a new comer in the scripting business. In my Opinion, the film lacks the “it” factor as it is not a very brilliant idea; it is a captivating one nonetheless.

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