Despite some shortcomings this film speaks to everyone.
Why couldn't Eastwood have done a commentary track on this?Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) represents a dying breed of American male. He's like Archie Bunker without the teddy bearness. He hates his neighbors, his friends, his kids and just about everybody else who is in his life. He doesn't hate America he just seems disappointed at what his country has become. Most of all he hates people who try and impose themselves on others, and that's just what happens when his Hmong neighbors have dealings with a local gang. So Walt takes up arms, ends up saving the family from a violent encounter and suddenly he's their hero.
Of course, Walt is put off at first by the way his neighbors are showing their respect. They keep giving him food and of course he doesn't want to eat it. Eventually, he gets broken down by this family and as he starts to deal with the younger kids, Walt eventually comes to care about them. No, he doesn't stop spewing his racist banter, but one comes to realize that this is simply who Walt is. He doesn't have anything against anybody, he just doesn't suffer fools easily.
Things take a different turn when Walt is called to defend the family against the gang again. A Korean War veteran, Walt again takes up arms only this time it is on American soil. Determined to stop these gang members from bothering the people he has come to care about, Walt makes the ultimate sacrifice and in doing so shows everyone that caring, compassion and understanding know no color or generational lines.
Manning the Wheel
As someone who mainly uses a car to get from point A to point B, I really can't say that I got a lot out of this featurette. While I can understand how car culture in the US reflects manhood, I guess I just don't get what people think is so cool about having some amazing looking car. However, this well produced featurette looked really nice on this DVD. The picture was extremely clear and at times I felt like I was watching a car special on one of those HD cable channels. The crux of this featurette is how tied to our cars people are. How they see them as extensions of themselves and treat them like living, breathing entities within their families.
Gran Torino: More Than A Car
The Eastwood Way
Now this HD featurette is worth the price of admission alone. I had always heard that Eastwood was a quick mover on the set. He doesn't do a million takes and he doesn't like to waste time. This well done featurette explores how Eastwood works with actors, crew members and other creative types in order to bring his vision to the screen. Considering the breadth and depth of the films he is making, it is amazing how laid back and easy going his is amidst the chaos of production. If you are a fan of Eastwood or you want to see how a movie should be made, you could do much worse than watching this featurette.
1080p High Definition - 16x9 - 2.4:1. I saw this movie in the theater and now, having seen it on Blu-ray, I can safely say that it looked better during my home viewing experience. Eastwood and Director of Photography Tom Stern have done a nice job giving this movie an older, desaturated look. The scenes both inside and outside feel as if the colors have been removed to show us just how much Walt Kowalski is missing from his life. Then, as he gets to know his neighbors and starts to become more open to engaging people, we see the colors get richer without beating viewers over the head that this is going on. None of the images on this DVD seem overly baked, and I really was impressed was how cleaned up the images were without making things look dyspeptic.
Dolby TrueHD - English 5.1- Dolby Digital: English, French, Spanish and Portugues 5.1. Subtitled in English, French, Spanish and Portugues. When this movie begins and Walt Kowalski is grunting all over the place, it would be easy to dismiss Gran Torino sort of arms length laughfest at a man who is out of his place and time. Yet, as the film moves on the richness of the audio compels viewers to reassess who this character is. We can't dismiss Walt as being crazy and it becomes increasingly difficult to try and understand his enemies. That all of this is played out via the rich sound design says a lot about the power of this Blu-ray disc. I wouldn't say that the audio engulfs viewers, rather it allows them to experience the movie in a deeper way and that is something that should make users quite happy.
An angry Eastwood is shown on this gray and black front cover with a small glimpse of the title car behind him. The back features another shot of Eastwood holding his rifle, a critic's quote, a movie description, Special Features, a cast list and technical specs. There isn't anything that amazing about the packaging but this movie speaks for itself just fine.
All in all I really think that Gran Torino was one of the better films of 2008. I know that some people were put off by some of the acting (not from Eastwood but by the other, younger members of the cast), but that isn't something that I really cared about. At the end of the day Gran Torino is Eastwood's film. Like the westerns of old, he is like the last hold out in a changing town. He is seemingly forgotten and marginalized by his age. The young gunslingers walk the street and don't ever think that someone like Walt could do them harm. However, Walt has seen more of the world than these young upstarts will ever know, and this is why he has the edge on them. His worldview may be simplistic but it allows him to stay one step ahead of everybody in his life. It is this instinct that gives Walt the confidence to know that if bad things are going to befall him, he is going to be in control of why they happen.
In the end, Walt Kowalski represents a sort of evolved cowboy. He is stuck in his ways but that doesn't mean he can't be moved. Gran Torino is a warm elegy to the evolving American male. What makes this movie great is that it isn't an indictment of racism, so much as it is a real life look at how we live together in such a diverse society. What Walt eventually realizes is that what he fears most about the people around him, is exactly what he needs in order to truly be alive.