Mystic River ★★★★½

A tale of two movies that as often in Eastwood shine a light into each other. One, the big tragedy with all its fireworks, call it the Penn/Robbins film, the other, the stoic grunt police investigation with Bacon and Fishburne. The first one got the Oscars (literally) and most of the attention at the time, but it wouldn't work without the other as Bacon's performance, the closest an Eastwood movie has to someone else imitating him (and to a large extant an echo of Eastwod's own work in A Perfect World) is not only the best in the movie (and one of the best ones in any of his movies), but in its functional withdraw with those tired eyes bearing innefective witness to action the key to what the movie is actually doing. The big tragedy arc with trauma reenacted and all those past sins (and deliberate Shakespearean echoes) is very very labored, Eastwood's intrusive music and those neighborhood authhentic shots do a lot of heavy work so one knows it is suppose to ressonate as a big profound statement, Penn's performance is pure tics and Robbins is so pained and tormented (both are quit good just very showy in a different way, indeed they and Harden seem to be acting in a movie while everyone else is in another quieter one), the idea of exhaustive burden replayed time and time again, the key to the film tough is how those fireworks are woven into a rather more simple framework, it is one of the more deliberate arty of Eastwood films, but the entire talk about consequence is pitched in a rather more simple terms, exhaustive and internalized body language, an art movie that still moves with the barebones logic of a well-observed crime procedural. The back and forth between Bacon and Fishburne (who is also very good and anyone who thinks he has a thankless part is missing the boat, there's a reason Eastwood wanted someone as strong and recognizable as him there) animate the movie, just a step removed, always ineffective, always ready to internalize the consequences of violence around them and serve it up in a clear to digest terms, much more than the operatic violence, it is in their mundane work that lies the real horror. When Mystic River come out, the sjadow of the Iraq invasion was all over it, there it was another movie about vigilantism, about the inevitability of all-American violence, critical for sure, but ultimately accepting of such status quo, what makes Eastwood work mirror Ford so much is less some notion of old school classicism than this desire to interpret myths in a way that recognize all the shit and to some extent offer absolution, that's their inherent conservatism, but that they are so close to it that they can take a real tough look at those processes and find things at them their more liberal alternatives wouldn't ever began to look, because both men are interested in the specificities and not generalities, is what made them both so essential. All this to say that deep down, with the distance of time. one can recognize that Mystic River is less about trauma, family, viligilantism or even violence, even if it wovens all of them together in a manner or another, it is about community complicity (it is no wonder the dead girl wants to escape the place), the way it is ready to normalize and give it its best public face, again Bacon is there the government stand-in, the figure of law and order with all the Eastwoodian tics, ready to give it official reading, an idea of justice that is most is about accepting all crimes happening in front of its eyes proccess them offer some form of official cop-out, things just have to keep going, normalized so the community can avoid descent into a chaos of its own making.