Friday, December 14, 2018

Movie with Abe: The Mule

The Mule
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released December 14, 2018

As people get older, they usually become less able to do the things that might have seemed considerably easier and effortless at a younger age. Retirement is an appealing option for those who feel that they have worked their entire lives and want to spend what remains of their time relaxing and enjoying whatever they haven’t been able to previously. Some don’t know what to do with themselves when their daily routine is taken away, and those may well be the most capable of surprising everyone around them with their unlikely resolve and resilience.

In 2005, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a horticulturist thriving in his industry and beloved by everyone at conventions, though his affinity for his craft leads to him prioritizing it over his family, including missing his daughter’s wedding. Twelve years later, Earl is facing foreclosure and not being able to fund the wedding of the one relative who still talks to him, his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). An unexpected offer to drive leads Earl into an extremely profitable profession, transporting large shipments of cartel drugs across the country. As Earl becomes the top runner, he is unaware that a DEA team led by Special Agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) is closing in on him.

Eastwood is a veteran actor and director who, at eighty-eight, continues to make impressive films and deliver worthwhile performances. Ten years ago, he anchored “Gran Torino” as a racist remnant of changing neighborhood, and here he portrays someone who has clearly alienated his family but remains otherwise likeable to those within his industry and with whom he interacts on a regular basis. Elements of his personality reveal his age and his having grown up in a different time, and his inability to text using a burner phone is a source of humor. But there is an unexpected sweetness and approachability to Earl that isn’t usually found in the characters he portrays.

The timing of this film’s release seems to have negated any awards chances for Eastwood, but his performance is typically great, and fresh in a way that is rare for an actor of his age. Cooper, who has his own directorial debut this year, is a solid familiar partner for Eastwood as the man charged with hunting him down. The narrative is easy to follow and presented in a straightforward format, with a perhaps unnecessary emphasis on the cartel serving to weaken an otherwise strong and compelling film. Though the true story on which it’s based predictably differs in many ways, this is a decent adaptation that knows exactly what it wants to be.


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