Gran Torino

I finally saw Gran Torino.  Great movie.  Clint Eastwood has announced that it was his last movie as an actor.  He went out on a high note.  It is perhaps the most explicitly Christian-themed movie I have seen since The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  Since my comments contain spoilers, they are after the jump.

There are two ways to look at this movie as explicitly Christian.  One can either see it as the redemption of the hate-filled racist (Eastwood), or as the redemption of the boy. The latter first :

The boy attempts an initiation into the gang.  His failed attempt to steal the car (you will be like God…) leaves him under the power and authority of the gang.  Even though he did not get in, the gang sees him as “theirs”.  No matter how hard he works at his job, what he does for his family, or even the penance he pays to the old man, he can not get out of the gang.  Indeed, even his sister is under the thumb of the gang.  As Clint Eastwood says to the priest, “They can’t be free until the whole gang is gone.”  The power of the gang must be broken.  This takes a sacrifice – a life for a life.  In dying, Clint Eastwood redeems and frees the boy. Now, the boy is given what he tried to take.

Alternately, the hate filled racist, who is despised even by his family, redeems his own soul as he learns that he must, like Christ, sacrifice himself.  In this understanding, the priest becomes critical.  Clint Eastwood confesses his sins (poorly) and receives the absolution.  We all assume he is going to go and shoot the gang.  Of course, in real life that doesn’t work.  He can’t kill them all.  He must, like Christ, hate his life in order to find it.  We are crucified with Christ in Baptism.  Notice the bath he takes, immediately before he goes to confess, which is then followed by his life taking  a decidedly Christ-like turn.

I would also add that this is the best portrayal of a clergyman (of any religion/denomination) that I have ever seen. He was strong, confident, humble, persistent, and a man of God all the way.  Kudos for not making him the wimpy no-nothing priest we are so familiar with in movies.  I hope it is the start of a trend.  I was worried at the start of the film – I heard his sermon and figured, “Oh boy, here goes another silly priest.”  But when he came around the second and third time, I realized I was going to like him.

Also, I’m not sure what the girl meant with the line, “Blame the Lutherans”, but as a child my church (A lutheran one) sponsored a Hmong family.  So, in that case, it was true.  It’s always fun to hear about Lutherans.

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