A Review of Gran Torino as an Enjoyable Piece of Trash
How could a movie be complete trash but at the same time an enjoyable one? Pauline
Kael is known for her way of criticizing American films. She writes about the different characteristics that makes films complete trash or even enjoyable trash. Gran Torino is a film about a Korean War vet, Walt, who tried to protect a Hmong teenager from street gang members. While doing this, Walt got very close to the Hmong family as if they were his own. Knowing that the gang members would never be defeated, Walt gave his life to put them in jail so Thao could live his life. Due to characters, cinematography, and theme, Gran Torino is and enjoyable piece of trash.
The use of Characters throughout the film keeps the audience engaged and makes this film a piece of enjoyable trash. Eastwood uses each character in very clever ways. “We know, and we often know much more about both the actors and the characters they’re impersonating and about how and why the movie has been made than are consistent with theatrical illusion” (Kael??). In Gran Torino, this is demonstrated when the audience thinks Walt is this mean vet who does not get along with anyone. Then at the end of the movie he end up losing his life for another. Not only making the grumpy old man the hero, Eastwood also downplays another main character till the very end. Eastwood ?????? Thao as a shy very reserved Hmong teenager. In the end, Thao becomes Walt’s best friend and is the reason Walt gave up his life.
In addition, the lighting in the Gran Torino can really catch the audience’s attention. Even though the lighting is not too creative nor is the movement of the camera, it does give the audience an idea of what is taking place. The lighting is not very original but it clearly captures the main events. In the film when the lighting is very dark and gloomy the audience can expect something bad to happen. For example, when Walt dies it is not out on a sunny day, instead, it is
a dark night with barely any lights out. Also, in the film when it is bright and colorful it is usually
just a normal daily activity going on. For example when the lighting is bright Walt is usually doing house work or just admiring his day. In addition, the camerawork is nothing of originality but it moves the movie along acknowledging the main ideas. For example, when the movie starts out, the audience knows that Walt’s wife had died but nothing more. This is a part where Eastwood just moves the camera along so that this event goes with the rest of the film. Also, when Walt finds out he is ill Eastwood does not elaborate on the scene instead he creates suspense and goes forth with the cameras.
With Eastwood leaving things out, he still manages to covey one of the best themes. A theme can go many directions in a film but a good one can make complete trash enjoyable. With a theme that will hit a range of audience makes a good film. “When you’re at a movie, you don’t have to believe in it to enjoy it but you do have to be interested.” (??). This quote shows how the movie can be trash but as long as something keeps the audience entertained it can be enjoyable. Walt shows the audience that life is way too short to sit back and watch. He shows this by giving up his life for Thao and taking the gangs off the streets. Theme not only makes a film great but it gets the audience thinking about their life. When Walt begins to take his neighbors under his wing it makes the audience think that maybe they can help someone weaker than them. Another example would be when Walt knows the only way to end Thao suffering is to risk his life and take the gang off the streets. This hits all ages because it makes the audience think how they could do such a heroic act to save another’s life.
Therefore, the characters, cinematography, and theme are the reason why Eastwood’s film is an enjoyable piece of trash. Without the clever use of the main characters Eastwood would have had normal every day actors. The camera work was not original in this film but the
lighting and movement helped capture the main events. Lastly, the film was made enjoyable
because it conveyed a strong theme. In the end, when a movie seems like complete trash it can
turn out to be an enjoyable movie due to certain factors.