Gran Torino (2008)
Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 2 Average: 4/5]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley
Gran Torino is a story about coexistence- about identifying the commonness amongst different cultures and living together peacefully. It tells you what this generation can learn from the previous one. It shows how a kid with a proper mentor can overcome bad influence and make a name for himself/herself.
Gran Torino is about Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a grumpy old Korean war veteran. His wife’s death brings about the visit of his estranged sons who are uncaring and greedy. Walt’s wife before her death had asked Father Janovich (Christopher Carley) to get a confession out of him and he hounds him everyday for that. Everyday he sits on his porch chugging on beer cans and surveying the neighborhood. Walt loves two things in the world: his dog Daisy and the 1972 Ford Gran Torino. A Hmong Vang Lor family lives next door. The family consists of the youngest son Thao (Bee Vang), his elder sister Sue (Ahney Her), Thao’s mother and Grandma. Grandma, like Walt sits on her porch and surveys all with mutual disdain.
One day Thao, under coercion, attempts to steal the Torino as part of an initiation into his cousin Fong’s (Doua Moua) gang. After the botched attempt the gang gives Thao another chance to steal the Gran Torino and starts beating up Thao when he refuses. The fighting spills over on Walt’s porch and eventually he chases the gang away. From there on how he warms up to the family leading up to his salvation in the end form the rest of the story.
Gran Torino is shot from Walt’s point of view and the whole movie builds up for his redemption. Therefore to understand that, we need to know Walt first. Walt belongs to the 1940’s generation, a war veteran who does everything himself. He mows his lawn, fixes things on his own. A retired auto maker who values hard work and discipline. He is a loner who doesn’t give a damn about the world and wants to be left alone. Walt is concerned about the influx of immigrants in his neighborhood for whom he has a certain aversion and thus the hatred towards Grandma. He growls “The old hag hates me” when in fact she is just reciprocating the feeling. He is a bully who has a disregard for the younger generation. Walt believes it doesn’t value hard work and always is on a lookout for short cuts.
He is in pain and is thus pissed off with the world. His hatred for the world is due to hatred for himself. A scar from the past still lingers on and he is unable to forgive himself for that. Walt is not the type of guy people would talk to or respect. He bloody never laughs and talks from between his clenched teeth. He is a racist and has his own dictionary of insults he labels at different people.
But beyond that tough outer shell there is a caring person. Once he rescues Sue from some lowlifes he bonds with her. She invites him into her house to treat him and eventually forms the bridge between Thao and Walt. Walt sees Sue as the daughter he never had. Walt takes Thao under his tutelage and baptizes his name to Toad. He teaches him tricks of the trade and more importantly about life. Once he does that he realizes he has more in common with the “gooks” than his spoiled rotten family.
Clint Eastwood has given a performance of his life. God, he is like the wine which gets better with age. It is sad that Gran Torino will be his last acting role. Ahney Her as Sue is good as a lovable next door neighbor who is mature and has to take care of her brother. Bee Vang is measured in his performance as Thao. But the best thing about the movie are its dialogues, they are legendary and will crack you up every time.
In the end Walt achieves his salvation. Its ironical that in the end he lives by the same words he mocked Father Janovich for. He says “Death is bittersweet, sort of bitter in its pain but sweet in its salvation.” The ending is beautiful and underlines the adage that death liberates soul. You will have a myriad of emotions watching him transform- you will hate him for being a racist, love him for lessons he provides to Toad and in the end you will definitely cry for the sacrifice he makes for the total strangers. Its a beautiful movie about coexistence: people might be different but its the basic quality to love which binds humanity together- all you need to do is take leap of faith. Watch Gran Torino and please share your rating above.