- Clint Eastwood,
- Brian Helgeland, Dennis Lehane,
- Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Chapman, Tom Guiry, Emmy Rossum,
- A thriller about friendship and loyalty, guilt and vengeance, and the fateful affect the past has on the present. Sean Penn won an Oscar for his multifaceted performance as a father who lost his daughter.
River ranks with the best movies Eastwood has directed: "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Unforgiven" and "The Bridges of Madison County." But this time, the work is strong without his own on-screen presence -- a significant achievement.
Two things make Eastwood's task easier for him: a superb cast and a cracking source novel. Dennis Lehane's book is one of the very best thrillers of recent years, richer in Boston detail and closer in character study than anything Eastwood manages to bring to the screen.
If Mystic River is just a bit overplayed, a tad too highly pitched, it still resonates with grief and fury and feeling.
So incrementally does Eastwood's film build toward what seems like an inevitable resolution that when it concludes, you're sucker-punched. You haven't been watching a police procedural, but a Greek tragedy. You haven't been watching a drama about the catharsis of vigilantism, but sitting vigil for a community diminished, and permanently damaged, by violence.
Mystic River is the rare American movie that aspires to -- and achieves -- the full weight and darkness of tragedy.
A haunted thriller of disturbing power.
As close as we are likely to come on the screen to the spirit of Greek tragedy (and closer, I think, than Arthur Miller has come on the stage). The crime of child abuse becomes a curse that determines the pattern of events in the next generation. [13 October 2003, p. 112]
For all its missteps, Mystic River gets the big things right: It turns you inside out with grief, and it builds to an act of vigilante murder that is nearly impossible to endure.
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