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movies > mystic river

mystic river

'Mystic River' is one of the year's best films and one of the main reasons of that is the performances. Like in 'Lost in Translation', what in my opinion was the year's best film (although 'Kill Bill' and 'The Lord of the Rings' came close), every actor does a perfect job in creating a character with its own emotions and therefore they could be real people.

Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon) and Dave (Tim Robbins) were friends as kids. One day they were playing on the street and Dave is taken by two men, pretending to be police officers. For four days he is abused by the men and this terrible event has changed them all. Now they are all grown up. Jimmy has a second wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney). He has two daughters with her and an older daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) from his previous marriage. She is found beaten and dead in a park. Dave is one of the main suspects. He is married to Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) and has a little boy. Sean is one of the detectives put on the case. Together with Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne) he must solve this mystery. Another suspect is Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry). He was Katie's boyfriend and they were leaving for Vegas. Jimmy hated Brendan, we learn why that is.

In a way 'Mystic River' plays like a detective movie. The plot is intriguing and we wonder what really has happened. But this movie doesn't end there. It looks further, closer to the characters and their emotions. There is suspense in dialogue between characters when they are explaining what they are feeling and what they really think. Director Clint Eastwood has made a movie with a creepy atmosphere the entire time. His direction is one of the other great things in this movie.

Back to the performances. The best performance in the movie is from Tim Robbins. In every scene you feel what has happened to him as a kid. He even uses vampire movies as a metaphor to how he feels. Sean Penn has a great performance as well. He is not as good as Bill Murray in 'Lost in Translation' but comes close. Penn sometimes goes a little over the top where Murray was always perfect in character. Kevin Bacon seems to have the easiest part, but you can see the pain he constantly feels. He has a pregnant wife but she has left him. She sometimes calls him but doesn't say anything. Bacon does a great job in showing us how he feels.

Smaller parts are very good as well. You forget Fishburne was playing Morpheus in 'The Matrix'-trilogy almost immediately. Marcia Gay Harden is probably the best from the supporting cast although Laura Linney, and especially her final creepy moments, comes close. Linney's performance is to small to really see how good she plays it. Tom Guiry as Brendan, who is not the best known here, surprised me in a very positive way. The more the movie develops the more he shows us how good he is.

Clint Eastwood has made his second-best film after 'Unforgiven' with a great story, adapted by Brian Helgeland ('L.A. Confidential') from the book written by Dennis Lehane. Together with his own music and his actors he creates a creepy atmosphere and has the nerve to not simply play that out. Giving the characters real lives is a movie you don't see very often anymore. Eastwood does it and Penn, Robbins, Bacon, Linney, Harden, Fishburne and Guiry make sure they are believable.

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