Clint Eastwood

U is for Unforgiven (1992)

Retired gunslinger William Munny (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly takes on one last job, avenge a woman who had been attacked by a couple of cowboys, with the help of his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and a young man, The “Schofield Kid” (Jaimz Woolvett).

Unforgiven is one of those films that’s always recommended when someone’s interested in exploring more of the Western genre. Because of that, I was expecting to really like it but unfortunately, I did not. On the whole, I enjoy Westerns and even did a module on them at university, but I really struggled with Unforgiven and found it more boring than anything else.

Unforgiven is just really slow going. The majority of the film is just highlighting how old William and, to a lesser extent, Ned have gotten. They used to be the best of the best, cold stone killers but they have changed, becoming farmers rather than killers. William’s world weariness is balanced out by The Schofield Kid’s enthusiasm. The dynamic between the youngster, keen to leave their mark, and the older gunslingers who have killed and know the toll it can have is good, but really the characters don’t have much of a personality. They are clichés of the genre and many of the characters could’ve been swapped with others from the genre with little to no effect on the plot.

Everything finally kicks off in the final act and a lot of the previous heavy-handed exposition becomes relevant as you see the change William goes through. It’s a final act that works because of what came before it, but unfortunately what came before it was often dull or meaningless. There’s a side plot with Richard Harris as gunfighter English Bob which amounts to nothing and is only there to hammer home how brutal lawman Little Bill (Gene Hackman) is. However, there are other scenes before and after the ones featuring English Bob that show how nasty Bill can be, so is Richard Harris even needed here?

Unforgiven won Best Picture at the Oscars in 1993 and while I haven’t seen the other nominees from that year, I’m still somewhat surprised it won. It looks good, with wide shots of the landscapes and the film quality makes it feels like a much older film than it is, which adds to the charm of a Western as they should feel timeless. However, Unforgiven is an arduous watch. The performances are mostly fine, but there’s attempts at humour that often don’t work, and the story and characters aren’t particularly compelling. Unforgiven just really wasn’t for me. 2/5.

S is for Sudden Impact (1983)

Trigger warnings for scenes of rape.

After angering a gang of criminals, San Francisco Detective Harry Callahan’s (Clint Eastwood) bosses send him on an out-of-town case until things calm down. But things are never quiet for Harry. In the seaside town he ends up there’s Jennifer (Sondra Locke), a rape victim who is exacting her revenge on her attackers, and soon Harry ends up following the case.

Sudden Impact is the fourth film following Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry. It’s been a good few years since I’ve watched the first three so I can’t compare it to them in terms of quality or Harry as a character’s story arc.

That being said, this film sees Harry as a man who sees murderers as murderers with very little grey area to move in. This means having the serial killer he’s chasing having a very understandable motive as she was a victim of a heinous crime, means there’s some interesting ground to cover in terms of Harry’s character. Unfortunately, this aspect is never really fully explored besides some lingering gazes and Jennifer being able to keep up when verbally sparring with Harry.

Jennifer is a compelling character and it’s refreshing to see her be allowed to be angry and scared, and how she seeks “justice” is never framed as a bad thing – especially once the audience knows her motives. The scenes when she confronts her rapists are powerful and Locke gives a steely performance in those moments.

The car and foot chases sometimes feel a bit dated, but the score is a great at increasing the tension in the sequences. The final act is exciting as Harry begins to put everything together and he and Jennifer both become caught up in danger.

Sudden Impact is an intriguing detective story that puts the killer almost on par with the hero in terms of screen time and understanding. 4/5.

D is for The Dead Pool (1988)

Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.

The Dead Pool is the fifth and (so far but I doubt there’ll ever be more but who knows with the likes of Harrison Ford still making Indiana Jones movies) final Dirty Harry movie. Like its predecessors, it has Harry growling at anyone who gets in his way and being involved in wanton destruction, but while this film has its action and violence, it’s surprisingly funny.

The Dead Pool has one of the most entertaining and inventive car chase sequences I’ve seen, and it contains a remote-control car the exudes menace. It makes great use of its San Francisco setting with all the hills and the score is just great. It’s equally parts fun and thrilling which I really wasn’t expecting from when the remote-control car first appeared.

Harry Callahan gets a new partner in Al Quan (Evan C. Kim) and they and their fellow officers are very aware that Harry’s partners often get injured or killed on the job. Al and Harry have an easy report with each other almost straightaway as Al rolls with the whatever dangerous situations he ends up in by being connected to Harry. However, it is a bit stereotypical that as Al is Asian American, he knows martial arts and stops a bad guy by using his skills.

Part of the fun of watching The Dead Pool is seeing some of the actors who are involved. Jim Carrey plays a musician, Patricia Clarkson reporter Samantha Walker who wants to do a piece on Harry, and Liam Neeson plays horror movie director, Peter Swan, who gets caught up in the celebrity murder contest. Neeson’s Swan is a wonderfully over-the-top director who gets under a lot of people’s skin due to his perfectionism and his temper. The scenes with Swan and Callahan are great fun as their personalities are such opposites you’re never sure which one is going to snap first.

The Dead Pool is a fun, entertaining crime film. Plus, its runtime is under 90 minutes and while there’s a lot going on, the pacing is good and the mystery keeps you guessing and intrigued as Harry slowly unravels the case. 4/5.

My Film Year in Review and my Film-Related Goals of 2020

In 2019 I watched a lot of films but not too many that I got overwhelmed with meeting a self-enforced target. In total I watched 242 different films, 251 films including rewatches. I saw 76 films at the cinema as well. I have a full list of all the films I watched here and I also put together a list of my Top Ten Favourite Films of 2019 last week for your reading pleasure – I’d recommend all of my favourites to anyone, no matter their taste in films.

With the film-related goals I set myself it was a bit of a mixed bag. One of the reasons I wanted to not put pressure on myself to watch films every day and hit a ridiculously high target, was so I could watch the many TV shows I’ve missed or got half way though and not feel guilty about it. In the end I didn’t watch many TV shows at all. In fact, I watched one and a half. I watched all of Stranger Things season three which I loved and binge-watched over a weekend. You can see what I thought on Twitter as I did some spoiler-free live-tweeting. I also started to rewatch Shadowhunters as the last series came out so thought it would be nice to rewatch it from the beginning and by the time I did that the new episodes would be out. It didn’t quite work like that because I’m someone who just stops watching TV shows even when I’m enjoying them. I got near to the end of series 2 so I only really have a season left to watch and half of it will be new to me. Maybe in 2020 I will finish my rewatch and live tweeting of one of my favourite shows.

I did complete the 52 Films by Women challenge once again. I watched 56 films directed by women (all of which happened to be first time watches) and I watched 71 films that were written by women. However, I didn’t watch very many of my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays, and in fact I bought more and now have over 80 unwatched films.

Now it’s time for the fun stats stuff. I have a Pro membership on Letterboxd which allows you to see all your film-viewing stats and I love it.

My most watched actors of 2019 were:

I rewatched and reviewed the Fast & Furious franchise (which I adore) so that’s why almost half the actors here are from at least one of those films. I made the effort to watch a lot of Brie Larson and Keira Knightley films so that’s why they’ve gotten a spot. I rewatched the sequel Star Wars trilogy, the Lord of the Rings, the Transformer trilogy and the John Wick trilogy so that explains people like Keanu Reeves, Andy Serkis and Hugo Weaving a couple of the other actors, but some people like Jim Broadbent and Joan Cusack were a surprise.

My most watched directors also show off the fact I watched a lot of Fast and Furious (Justin Lin), Star Wars (J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson) and Transformers films (Michael Bay). I like how Antoine Fuqua makes an appearance once again (he’s one of my favourite directors) and I tend to rewatch his films fairly often. It’s a shame there’s only one woman on this list. I watched four of Mira Nair’s films that I hadn’t seen before but while I watched over 50 films directed by women, I think she was the only female director I watched multiple films from.

So what are my film-related goals of 2020? I’m going to continue to watch what I want, when I want, and not feel like I have to watch a film every day when I’d rather be reading or discover a new TV show (that I’ll only watch half of before stopping even when I’m enjoying it). I definitely want to finish watching Shadowhunters and if I manage to get through a couple of other TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages in 2020 that’d be great. I think The Alienist returns this year and as that’s like the one show besides Stranger Things that I’ve watched in its entirety recently, I’m definitely looking forward to that.

I want to complete the 52 Films by Women challenge for both directors and screenwriters again. I have been doing (and completing) this challenge since 2016 so it’d be cool to make it a fifth year in a row.

I will once again say I want to get my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays down. As I said, I have over 80 of them to get through but I do have a plan to tackle this! It is going to be related to the A-Z in April Challenge but more will be revealed in the Spring. I not only have a Clint Eastwood boxset to get through, but an Alfred Hitchcock one as well now so maybe I’ll make some headway with those this year.

Do you have any film-related goals for 2020? How easy/difficult do you find it is to make time to sit down and watch a film?

REVIEW: In the Line of Fire (1993)

Veteran Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is haunted by the fact he couldn’t save Kennedy in Dallas, and now thirty years later a man who calls himself “Booth” (John Malkovich) threatens the life of the current President and Frank is determined not to fail a President again.

In the Line of Fire is a film where it wastes no time setting up the characters and getting straight into the main plot. You learn as much about the characters as they share with each other, and when Booth starts to make his presence known, it takes the time to tease the character with extreme closeups on his eyes or mouth.

Eastwood’s Frank is a veteran of the Service. He’s a good agent but not the man he was, something he and everyone else knows, but he’s not willing to accept that yet. Eastwood’s performance is full of charm, but he also presents an uncompromising figure especially when others start to believe he’s not fit for the Presidents protection detail and should leave the case alone.

While Eastwood is certainly the lead of In the Line of Fire, it’s Malkovich who steals every scene he’s in. Booth is an incredibly cunning man and knows exactly what buttons to press to make Frank go off his game. The phone conversations between Booth and Frank are the epitome of cat and mouse as they each try to learn things from one another, though Booth always seems to be one step ahead. Malkovich give a performance that’s cool and calculating one moment, and then full of fury the next. As Frank digs deeper into who Booth is or was, he starts to become an almost tragic character.

In the Line of Fire is a smart thriller. While there are a few chase sequences and scuffles, it’s how Frank and the other Secret Service agents work through the limited information they have to catch a potential killer that’s so gripping. The score, the editing, and the cinematography all work together to rack up the tension as Booth gets closer to his goal of killing the President, and Frank gets pushed closer to the edge.

In the Line of Fire is a tense thriller with gripping performances. It’s only shortcoming is the romance between Frank and fellow Secret Service agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo) which feels awkward, rushed and just unnecessary. 4/5.

REVIEW: Sully (2016)

sully-movie-posterThe story of Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), an American pilot who, along with his crew, became a hero after being forced to land a plane on the Hudson River in order to save the 155 souls on board.

The way this story is told is different to what one might expect. The film makes you wait, for what can feel like an excruciating long time, to see the full sequence of the plane coming down onto the Hudson. There’s snippets of flashbacks throughout the film, complimenting what’s happening in the present as Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) try and make sense of what happened, but you have to wait to the final act to see it all come together.

The sequence of the plane coming down is dynamic and thrilling and the special effects are top notch. The sequence, along with the whole film really, brings you that pleasure of seeing people being competent at their jobs and keeping their heads in a crisis. The aftermath of the water landing shows the best people have to offer with everyone pulling together and shows how regular tour boats came to the rescue.

Sully is an incredible true story and seeing the events in the air and learning about the hearings Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles had to attend to prove they made the right decision is great. Director Clint Eastwood allows the true events to speak for themselves and manages to avoid most clichés often seen in autobiographical films. Sully is a polished film with a great performances and Tom Hanks is on fine form as always. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Gauntlet (1977)

the gauntlet elenasquareeyesHard but average cop Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) is assigned to escort Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) a witness in custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, but a lot of people are literally betting that they won’t make the trip and everyone seems as if they’re out to get them.

The Gauntlet is super fun. It’s action-packed and violent and it never really lets up. From the moment Shockley and Mally meet the sparks fly. They are polar opposites and they definitely clash early on in their relationship especially because Shockley doesn’t really believe that there’s someone out to get them.

It’s nice seeing Eastwood play a cop that isn’t really in control and isn’t respected by his colleagues. It’s unusual seeing him be a bit of a fish out of water but (naturally) he rises to the challenge and turns out he can be a bit of a badass in a pinch.

The violence in The Gauntlet really is quite violent. There’s helicopters with machine guns, cars get blown up and a more realistic and frightening moment is when Mally is almost raped. It’s shocking and unapologetic and it’s a bit jarring coming after a string of action set pieces.

After all the action and Shockley and Mally often beating the bad guys, the ending is a bit of a let-down. It just seems that those responsible for putting Shockley and Mally through hell don’t really get a decent enough comeuppance.

Fun and action-packed The Gauntlet is sometimes silly but it’s always a good time. 4/5.