30th Jan2019

‘The Mule’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Alison Eastwood, Dianne West, Manny Montana, Taissa Farmiga, Andy Garcia, Jill Flint, Clifton Collins Jr. | Written by Nick Schenk, Dave Holstein | Directed by Clint Eastwood

mule-poster

The Mule, directed by Clint Eastwood, is the actors first foray back into the world of acting since his supporting role in the release of Trouble with the Curve in 2012. The acting legends turn as 90-year-old Korean War veteran Earl Stone is a welcome return to the craft as an actor; and as a director as he puts forth a terrifically compelling picture full of tension, charisma and heart that feels as if it was plucked straight out of the directors 1970s filmography.

Gone is the excessive and highbrow level of narrative or production method often found in Eastwood’s latest directorial exploits in The 15:17 to Paris, Sully and American Sniper. In its wake, and terrifically executed for that matter, The Mule is a far more nuanced and subdued approach that revels in a much slower but more emotionally methodical substance that ultimately feels refreshing in an atmospheric and easily digestible narrative. Eastwood does miss-queue certain tense moments with little bravado or gravitas, especially in the Mexico and cartel moments, even still the gravitas is never flat or vanilla. The stakes of life and death are always on show, seductive yet never without the magnitude of illegality that makes such a corruptive life a short and bittersweet story.

Eastwood, in particular, is ever so cavalier and luminous. A testament to his natural ability and straightforward to approach to the simplicity of acting. It is this simplicity that makes The Mule all the more engaging and resonating with the ease of a story simply and effectively told. Courtesy of Eastwood; an actor who knows exactly what, when and how to evoke depth and charisma perfectly. An attribute perfectly personified in the work of Eastwood’s protege Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born. A weighted performance without necessarily showcasing a visually loud or aggressive prowess via screen presence and an intensity cultivated by his peers. Credit is also deserving of the simplistic yet thematically on the nose screenplay by Nick Schenk and Dave Holstein.

Supporting cast of Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña and Laurence Fishburne all put forward sufficient performances with charisma and individualism. Cooper, for the most part, takes control of the hunting side story of capturing Stone. The subplot adds an interesting family dynamic but for the most part never takes the shine, gleam and poignancy away from Eastwood, of what may just be his last rodeo. Alison Eastwood and Dianne West as daughter Iris and wife Mary, respectively, are both terrific. The former a relatively semi-retired actress puts forward a wisely stoic performance and absolutely nails sequences on screen with her father with strong emotional importance put forward. West plays the intermediate character in the muddled family dynamic. Crossed between honesty and betrayal she excels tenfold in conveying the devastation and regrets her husband has caused especially in the films final act when the film comes full circle with the ramifications of neglect explored to an engulfing extent.

The production offers an array of terrific work from all corners of film making involved. The edit from longtime Eastwood collaborator Joel Cox is arguably the masterstroke and hidden piece of a giant puzzle that stabilizes and personifies the slick embodiment of Eastwood’s career. Sleek and straight to the point with stylish confidence with a rather splendid eye of framing and composition from cinematographer Yves Bélanger. Perfectly resembling 1970s filmmaking at its finest and an almost perfect companion piece to Eastwood’s 2008 magnum opus Gran Torino. Both exploring the naivety and ignorance of an older generation that is the perpatrator or victim of a robbed life via actions by themselves or societies ever ongoing evolution…

The Mule is in UK cinemas now.

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