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[Opinion] Gran Torino

Gran Torino touches on social issues and issues of racial prejudice. Through all of the grit and vulgarity of the film, Eastwood’s overall message leaves the audience compelled and moved to tears.

By: Laura Lemire

Clint Eastwood plays a chilling but gripping main role in “Gran Torino.”

Walt Kowalski, a veteran of the Korean War, is a bitter old man who harbors horrible memories of merciless slaughter. The opening scene of the movie is a Catholic funeral in which Kowalski bids his wife farewell.

Kowalski is a tough-nosed character, not unlike William Munny, Eastwood’s main character in the bloody western: “Unforgiven,” which was released in 1992.

Distanced from his family, Kowalski is left to wallow in his own discontent as his neighborhood is over-run by Hmong gangbangers. Kowalski becomes tangled up in the lives of his neighbors, Hmong that have immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War.

Kowalski finds himself warming up to his neighbor’s children, welcomed with friendship by Sue, the eldest daughter of the household, and in undertaking a father-like role for the adolescent boy, Thao.

Gran Torino touches on social issues and issues of racial prejudice. Through all of the grit and vulgarity of the film, Eastwood’s overall message leaves the audience compelled and moved to tears.

As Kowalski’s character develops, the audience is allowed to peer into the life of a man who is full of unhappiness. Unlike “Unforgiven,” “Gran Torino” carries a message of regret for a life already lived as well as a message of redemption and self-sacrifice. Kowalski’s good-natured heart cannot be denied.

Aspects of religion are incorporated into the film as well. Father Janovich, played by Christopher Carley, persistently checks up on Kowalski because his wife’s dying request to the priest was for her husband to go to confession. Janovich is also troubled by the fact that Kowalski stops coming to church.

The role of religion ties into the film’s motif on life and death, which is threaded throughout the movie. Kowalski seems to deal with religion as most westerners deal with it: take a step back and put it on the back-burner so that the larger social issues at hand can be focused on.

The movie is rated R for violent content and graphic language and there is no shortage of either. The film is dark but realistic. Kowalski is aptly played by Eastwood and the symbolism threaded throughout “Gran Torino” makes the film worthy of cinematic praise.
 
 
 

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