Mystic River

Mystic River is a haunting, beautifully crafted film which tells the harrowing story of a young girl´s murder in Boston. Clever direction from Clint Eastwood, a great script and some first class acting from a great cast including Sean Penn and Tim Robbins makes this an excellent movie.

Childhood friends on the day Dave is abducted

As the film opens we are introduced to three young kids - Jimmy (Sean Penn), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Sean (Kevin Bacon) who are playing in the street. They find some wet cement and begin to write their names into it. A man claiming to be a cop stops them and takes Dave away in his car. This scene is nicely shot and very chilling, Dave gazing helplessly out of the back of the car as it disappears into the concrete jungle of Boston. Dave escapes from a dank basement a few days later and returns to his home but he is severely damaged by the experience.

We cut to a few years later and the childhood friends are all grown up. They no longer seem to be close although they all frequent the same neighbourhood where they grew up together. Jimmy runs the local market and seems to have some dodgy connections with the Savage Brothers, Sean is now a homicide cop and Dave is just muddling through trying to care for his young son.

When Jimmy´s 19 year-old daughter turns up dead in the park all hell breaks loose. Sean is assigned to the case and Jimmy begins investigations of his own. Dave saw the girl in a bar, the last place she was seen alive, and returned home late and covered in blood. He tells his wife that a mugger attacked him and he killed the guy but when she hears about Jimmy´s daughter she gets suspicious. The action builds to a gripping and deeply affecting climax reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy.

The direction here from Clint Eastwood is really impressive. He creates a close and tense portrait of the three characters, utilising clever camera techniques where the main players are clear and the backgrounds merge and blur behind them. He is able to create a very realistic feel to the events and you get a sense of this neighbourhood in Boston as a real living breathing place with a history all its own.

Jimmy goes mad as he realises his daughter is dead

The writing is also excellent, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and reworked into a screenplay by Brian Helgeland. The dialogue is very believable as authentic and the events unfold at the perfect pace to draw you along. This is a clever story with some real depth to it and the characters are very well developed. Their motives and interactions are fascinating and make for an attention grabbing movie which sucks you in from the start.

The acting is really astoundingly good although this should come as no surprise when you look at the cast list. Sean Penn is amazingly convincing as the ex-jailbird Jimmy, a tough neighbourhood guy who´s gotta do what he´s gotta do. Tim Robbins gives a quiet and considered portrayal of the unfortunate Dave, the walking wounded struggling through life. Kevin Bacon does a good job with the weakest of the three characters, the cop Sean. Laurence Fishburne is fantastic as Whitey Powers, the partner of Sean and a very smart detective indeed. The remainder of the supporting cast are all convincing and leave a real sense of a genuine neighbourhood and community.

The story is a true tragedy and does make for bleak and challenging viewing but the quality throughout is so obvious that it is hard to stop watching the film until all has been resolved. This is a great movie grounded in reality with some twists and turns along the way, the direction and acting are both top notch and overall this film entertains from start to finish - it deserves to be watched.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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