“We bury our sins here, Dave. We wash them clean.”
Mystic River and Unforgiven are my two favorite Clint Eastwood films and depending on which one I see last I tend to put in first place. Right now I’m inclined to declare Mystic River as Eastwood’s best film, but that is subject to change anytime (perhaps even before I finish writing this review). Nominated for six Academy Awards, the film won two: Sean Penn for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Tim Robbins for Best Supporting Actor. I was rooting for Brian Helgeland’s wonderful screenplay adaptation from Dennis Lehane’s novel, but it lost out to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Helgeland had previously won an Oscar for his adaptation of L.A. Confidential, which is another wonderful thriller. Lehane’s novel adaptations have always translated well to the big screen and I recommend each one: The Drop, Shutter Island, and Gone Baby Gone. So when putting these two great writers together you are guaranteed an intriguing story with rich characters, which is one of the reasons why I love Mystic River. On a side note I just want to say that Lehane’s novel, Live By Night, is being directed by Ben Affleck and will be released some time next year. It’s already my frontrunner for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards without knowing anything else about it.
Mystic River’s underlying theme is the loss of innocence. The story centers around three childhood friends whose life is forever changed when one of them is abducted and molested for several days before he manages to escape. The film centers on these three characters now that they are adults. Dave (Tim Robbins), the victim, is now a married man, but he is clearly traumatized by the abuse he received. Sean (Kevin Bacon) has become a homicide detective, while Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con who is now a loving father of three. When Jimmy’s daughter goes missing and is found dead, Sean takes over the investigation, but Jimmy is not going to let whoever committed this terrible crime go unpunished.
Mystic River stands out for its clever screenplay, and that usually translates to fantastic performances. Sean Penn delivers one of his best performances and the scene where he finds out his daughter has been murdered is heart-breaking. Tim Robbins is also fantastic playing a traumatized man whose life was changed by that terrible event during his childhood. Sean Penn is perhaps given the most straightforward scenes as the detective, but even he shares some powerful scenes with Sean Penn. Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden also have some intense dramatic scenes. The film stands out thanks to its powerful performances and the surprising dark reveals along the way. It could even stand out on its own for the detective story, but it is carried to another level thanks to the impressive performances and Eastwood’s solid direction.
“The last time I saw Dave…That was twenty-five years ago, going up this street, in the back of that car.” That quote left me with goosebumps all over my arms and a quick chill run through my spine.