Having directed over 30 films, Clint Eastwood is high up there with other auteurs and true to form he never stops delivering. Making an array of dramas, westerns and action films, he is simply a Hollywood icon. I remember the first films I ever saw him appear in, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Unforgiven. His presence on screen was compelling and thought provoking, always intending to communicate with the audience through the power of filmmaking. Eastwood’s style of directing is opposed to the conscious attempts of others who insist on multiple re-shooting of scenes. He is renowned for maintaining the budget, efficient directing and reducing film time but most importantly Eastwood considers the imagination of the audience by using minimal script background in order to allow the viewers to connect with characters on a more personal level.
As an actor he is an emblem of the macho movie star who rides into ‘town’ as the troubled hero, battling his inner demons whilst overcoming the odds to protect those in need. But the ‘town’ does not have to be in the Wild West, it is more so symbolic and a common auteur trait of Eastwood’s which underlies the complexity of his narratives. The ‘town’ can be applied to the 1999 movie True Crime which was based on the 1997 book by Andrew Klavan of the same name. As well as directing True Crime he also starred as the main character Steve Everett, a journalist and recovering alcoholic from Oakland asked to investigate the execution of Frank Beecham, a convicted murderer played by the mesmerising Isaiah Washington.
When Steve meets Frank, the beauty of Eastwood’s directional style is expertly played out through the minimal use of dialogue, gritty lighting and close ups of the characters, leaving them both exposed. This coupled with the use of a ticking clock instils a race against time for Steve to prove Frank’s innocence. What is tenderly unique about their relationship is the setting up of opposites when really they are more alike than they know. Both have inner demons and a desire to change the past but however much you try it is the acceptance of ones self and actions that truly set you free. Franks emotional turmoil through alcoholism and the affect it has on his family resonates well on screen and provides heart warming support for the protagonist.
With Frank, he needs to come to accept the misunderstandings and evidence against him whilst also coming to terms with how his actions and possible execution can have consequences for his family. As the narrative progresses it becomes clear that one of the underlying themes of True Crime is if you had twelve hours to live would you be prepared to do whatever it takes to sort your life out. The hero and villain are set up at the beginning but in true Eastwood fashion the narrative gets flipped on its head. Steve fails as a family man whilst Frank is spared execution and is reunited with his loving family. When the two characters subsequently bump into each other at Christmas it evokes a bittersweet moment of human complexity as both characters are trying to move on from the ordeal.
Whether Clint Eastwood is a dirty cop, a pure romantic, cowboy, action star, boxing mentor or a troubled soul, he is arguably one of the most talented and creative directors in film. His directing is famously known for shooting first and asking questions later, an approach that gets the job done. Symbolically, this also reflects the kind of hero he encompasses and what we have come to know and love.