The Mule

The Mule ★★★★

At 88 years old, Clint Eastwood might be the hardest-working man in Hollywood. And now, with his second directorial outing of 2018 — and his best film since at least “Letters from Iwo Jima” in 2006, and perhaps 1993’s “A Perfect World” before that — he’s finally explained why.

Inspired by a Sam Dolnick article in the New York Times Magazine called “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule,” “The Mule” is a far cry from the red state fantasy that some people feared from a MAGA-era vehicle by an auteur who’s publicly endorsed the Republican Party in the somewhat recent past (two presidential elections and a zillion news cycles ago). On the contrary, Eastwood’s latest thriller is a tender, conflicted, and sometimes very funny meditation on what America conditions people to want for themselves — on how natural it can be to forget who you are in a country where work is an identity unto itself.