“Mystic River” (2003) was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Clint Eastwood). Sean Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance. The movie boasts what Eastwood calls a “dream cast,” including Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. At the Oscar ceremony, Penn took home the statuette for Best Actor and Robbins won for Best Supporting Actor. Now this superb film is available on a three-disc set comprised of the movie and an audio commentary track on one DVD, half a dozen bonus materials on a second DVD, and the soundtrack on a music CD.
In my opinion, “Mystic River” is one of the finest films of recent years. Eastwood has skillfully combined story, location shooting, and performances to create a movie at the level of the best of the dramas aimed at adults released during the 1970s. The film has a ruminative, brooding mood, yet a lot happens, including three murders and child molestation. The narrative engine is a murder mystery, but the film plays more like classical tragedy.
Set in Boston, the story in “Mystic River” kicks into high gear when homicide detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) is dispatched to investigate the murder of a 19-year-old woman. The victim turns out to be the daughter of his boyhood friend Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), who sets in motion his own effort to bring the murderer to justice. Caught up in this as a suspect is the hapless Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), who as a boy was friends with both Sean and Jimmy. But it seems to me the film isn’t so much of a whodunit as it is a meditation on fundamental humanistic issues like grief, loyalty, and revenge.
The movie “Mystic River” is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, and I think screenwriter Brian Helgeland did a terrific job of adapting the book. Also, I found the film to have a feeling of authenticity, which must have been at least partly due to Eastwood’s insistence on shooting in old Boston working-class neighborhoods that have resisted gentrification. But the most impressive thing about the film to me was the acting—not only that of Penn, Robbins, and Bacon in the three most important roles, but also the strong performances of Laurence Fishburne (as a homicide detective working with Bacon’s character), Marcia Gay Harden (as Robbins’ character’s distraught wife), and Laura Linney (as the Lady Macbeth-like wife of Penn’s character). I’ll be surprised if “Mystic River” doesn’t turn out to have a following among cinephiles for decades to come.Next Page: About the Special Features of the Three-Disc DVD Set