Honest and raw, Gran Torino is an unflinching dissection of our society through a lens of a veteran trying to come to terms with not only his life that’s nearing its end but also the system he trusted. You can argue that this is a movie about the infamous “racist old uncle”. But I think it’s much more than that. It’s actually an examination of a certain way of life you could describe as a boomer way of life. Something that almost nobody in the reviews at IMDb wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole. If I had to boil this whole sentiment down to a single concept it would be following authority no matter where it leads and why.
This is how our main character Walt found himself in Korea fighting for something. He left all the thinking to the others and operated in well-defined and basic systems. Strength and authority were the cornerstone of his life and now he has neither. And he’s trying to come to terms with that and other, also important elements of his life. Clint Eastwood directed his first movie back in 1971. Just ten years later he was both directing, writing and starring in Firefox. This is why we get this laser-focused story that can still be used for a much broader analysis.
It’s basically a double loop that gives you that nice juicy “this is one of those brainy, retrospective movies” or to be even more precise (or convoluted) a reversed coming-of-age movie. Of course, all the while hitting all the keywords like guns, cars, and young people. Throw in there: what’s wrong with young people and older people are smart and you’ve got a hit. I believe if this movie was made in any other way, I would “find” something repulsive about it. However, I felt strangely intrigued by Gran Torino.
This is that Clint touch that I have been talking about, you can be certain that his movies would be nicely packaged. I also have to mention that, again strangely enough, I also have a fascination with that particular rifle M1 Garand, which is certainly not a coincidence. Additionally, that Gran Torino is looking mighty fine. And when it comes to Walt smoking and drinking, Clint never smoked nor drank in his life. He exercises regularly and meditates to keep his mind sharp. His vice was women because have to have something, as you probably already know.
Meet Walt Kowalski, although when you hear his name, you already feel like you know him. You know he’s of Polish decent, a traditional, manly man who has seen some shit and done some shit. He’s now retired and still haunted by memories of his engagement in the Korean war. With his wife dead and his declining health all seems to be going to shits for our old friend Walt. In the midst of all this, a young kid tries to steal his car. When the kids’ family finds out about this, they make the kid make it up to Walt by doing all these chores around the house. And so another chapter in his life begins.
Sometimes I mention how some movies are subversive and deeply revealing when it comes to some subjects. Gran Torino is not one of those movies. It has some decent dialogues and just looking purely from an observational point, the story has a lot of value. Coming to terms with not only the death of your loved ones but also your own mortality and seeing how everything decays around can be a daunting task. Especially if you become bitter, as most old people do (I guess).
This is where friendships and abilities to let go of some preconceived notions that you held high up until then, come into play. I also have to mention that there’s a decent amount of humor here, along with great pacing. So, the movie never feels boring despite its almost two-hour long running time. It feels honest and dare I say practical, if there is such a thing. You don’t feel like they made just another movie with this subject, but that they actually had something to say and that is always a great thing.
Finally, I cannot resist digging a bit deeper into the movie. Ultimately, Gran Torino is about this concept that the “old world” is still here, alive and well, and that you need old men doing stuff the old way to solve it. Gang violence and bullying are the issues modern society does not have an answer to. But Walt does, and that answer is to be just as mean, scary, and dangerous as the other side. And while he does have a point, this is part of a larger discussion we need to have in our society. And exactly these old white men are preventing us from having it.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Brian Howe
Fun Stuff: Clint Eastwood’s character’s name, Walt Kowalski, is the real name of legendary wrestler, ‘Walter “Killer’ Kowalski’.