Ennio Morricone screeches out and into the ears of those that view For a Few Dollars More. He, like director Sergio Leone and star Clint Eastwood, is synonymous not just with the spaghetti western genre but with what it stood for. What the characters represented, how the tone and style were dictated by framing and sound and why it was so important for the Dollars Trilogy so far. Eastwood steamrolled the genre with a fine setlist of outings, and For a Few Dollars More may be his best of all. The doubts of cowardly bankers and sinful protagonists are captivated well and shown to have a limited, underlining humour to them. It shines through with sharp wit and a desire to bring out the worst emotions in the best of performers.
Fleeting love is destroyed not by the distance between the happy couple but the time they have together is, when adapted correctly, emotionally crushing. The Bridges of Madison County takes us through the core of blossoming love in just four days. Angry adults meet with the will and testament of a mother whose secrets were not devious or disastrous for the family but kindle their own thoughts and feelings. Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this piece alongside Meryl Streep, the two with such incredible chemistry and Eastwood with his effective direction, this romantic drama soon comes together as a high point of the old western hero’s career. Rightly so.
What incredible talents The Four Seasons were. Assets to art and fantastic musicians that had a superb variety of crowd-pleasing classics and culturally and tonally aware B-Sides that could steal the show from their most notable tracks. A weedy group of characters form a band that would break the charts and beat out a whole genre of music. They are formidable, skilled and marvellous, no doubts about that. Clint Eastwood knows that too, and it is why his adaptation of Jersey Boys is so frustrating. His heart is in the right place, but his head is running on empty. Ideas that do not drag out the display of camaraderie for this group of singers and musicians, a sad shame since this is probably the greatest outing of Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons we’ll ever see on the big screen.
Washed in fear and produced by a stroke of genius in a pressure-fuelled time, the heroic actions of pilot Chelsey Sullenberger are just the right story for a biopic. An act of genuine selflessness and confidence knocked down ever so briefly as a disgraceful and dangerous act, soon redeemed by a legal body. Sullenberger saved hundreds of lives, that much should always be remembered. Clint Eastwood immortalises these actions in Sully but inflicts the idea that it is his American patriotism that gave him the gall to take such a risk. Maybe so, but as an outsider looking in, it is a tough pill to swallow and a tougher one to agree with when it is explained so abruptly.
With a penchant for press relations, Clint Eastwood in the later stages of the 1990s was obsessed by the charms and cutthroat nature of newspaper reporting. True Crime is better for showcasing that rougher edge than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, his preceding piece to the against-the-clock thrills found in True Crime. Murder is still the key to this feature, with a reporter usurped by a sudden revelation in a case he is covering. A classic case of getting too close to your sources, and the dangers of that are adapted briskly and intensely by Eastwood. He ducks behind the camera and throws John Cusack into the spotlight. It is a sink or swim situation for the up and comer.
Stockholm syndrome is just a fancy term for extended friendship, or at least, that seems to be the driving force of A Perfect World. Kevin Costner may portray kidnapper and hostage holder Robert Haynes, but at least he has a good heart and a bond is soon born between him and Phillip Perry (T.J Lowther). But beyond that odd variation of what Stockholm syndrome may be, Clint Eastwood directs and supports Costner as best he can. A Perfect World is an oddly fitting title. In a perfect world, the bond between Haynes and Perry would be an ideal variation of the father and son relationship. Still, we are bound by whatever Eastwood wishes to provide, and provide he does with this fascinating story that challenges odd layers of audience expectations.
It is rare for the western powerhouses to shed light on the other sides of warfare. Clint Eastwood is not a name all that synonymous with showcasing the other side of the coin. His red, white and blue patriotism is at the core of so many of his 21st-century projects. More fool me. We should not judge a man on his other works, especially when Letters from Iwo Jima manages to craft a respectful and thoroughly interesting story of two Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. A determination is showcased, not from Eastwood, but from the men whose lives he looks to bring to life. They are not so different from the values he treasures as a patriot, and it is a grand vision that he displays when adapting to another country and their values.
Side-stepping that inevitable crash that would soon drag America’s economy through the dust and mud, Changeling is centred more on the roars before the storm. Clint Eastwood had already worked through the pangs of agony that came from the Great Depression, but was clear there that light could be found in the darkest of situations. Changeling flips that. It is the cynical and inevitable role reversal. A story based on the Wineville Chicken Coup murders; Changeling is a film set on showing the horrors of the high life. Great times may roll on around us, but that does not mean we must take part in them. Sometimes our minds wander to more pressing issues, as they do for Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) a phone operator and agonized character.
Such a harrowing impact the Great Depression had on America; it is hard to forget how many suffered during this time, and how few are willing to adapt it to the big screen. The fallout of the Roaring 20s and the later stages of the American Dream and its slow demise are picked apart with glee and fascinatingly diverse results. Honkytonk Man has no desire to look forward to the future or reflect on the past, it hits itself deep down into the rut millions of Americans found themselves in during the 1930s. Clint Eastwood drags his son, Kyle Eastwood, into the mixture of anguished singers and the throes of agony that the Great Depression formed.
A sudden realisation is all it takes to kick True Crime and director Clint Eastwood into overdrive. Stern reporting and having all the facts in one place soon push huge realisations onto a man whose carelessness elsewhere is held as rather ironic. How can a man so disorganised personally be tasked with proving the innocence of a man sentenced to death? True Crime does nothing to answer that, but at least it presents the question worth discussing. San Quentin provides a magnificent backdrop to a story of false imprisonment and the futility that so many must feel while on death row. Eastwood does not use True Crime as a chance to talk up the arguments for or against execution, he is too focused on a character-based turn for himself and Isaiah Washington.