Cinematic Releases: It's A Long Road: The Mule (2018) Reviewed

At the end of 2018 comes one of the most poignant and character driven films that serves as a perfect vision of Clint Eastwood's entire career. 

Bringing back many of the harsh themes of his Gran Torino mixed with a fully rendered study in misguided parenting, his directorial effort is a spot on rendition of  a crime thriller mixed with high drama and an undying human element that's completely captivating. With a supporting role from a reinvigorated Bradley Cooper, hot off the set of A Star is Born, you can feel the love between the two artists, even if they are on the opposite ends of the legal spectrum. 

At 88 years old, the sly wit and dry humor of Eastwood's last few years comes back to the forefront to offer his audience an absolute darling of a film. Where many would have gone down dark corridors with a movie about a crotchety old man becoming the cartel's number one drug mule, Eastwood instead opts to stew on a piece of fiction that is ripped from today's world of senior citizens that need a way out of financial ruin. My only personal fear is that this might be one of Eastwood's final films. He's obviously showing the signs of slowing down here. If it happens to be his swan song as an actor, it's a perfect book end to his career. 

You wanna see what's in the back of my truck?
It's a long running career of awesome movies back there!

Much like his formative years as a Western actor, Eastwood is in fine form still offering up quite a bit of swagger, even if his step isn't quite as spry as it once was. But that's what this movie is about. It perfectly captures how the young become the old and how this world will swallow you up if you don't take the chances that are offered to you, even if they happen to be at the calling of cash hungry drug runners and kingpins. While some might spew some of the content here as stereotyping, it's not any more so than Gran Torino, but also shows numerous sides of the coin. We get an inside look at the criminal world where respect is earned at the cost of human lives. But we also get a variable that we don't see very often. For once, theater viewers see the world through the eyes of a very old man that's lost everything but is willing to go the distance to get it all back, all for the love of the family he abandoned for his life's work. If anything, The Mule is a unique perspective with amazing performances all around. 

Filmed through a lens that is hyper realistic with beautiful long shots and stunning and dynamic environments, Eastwood knew exactly what he was going for here. This is a portrait of our current world. He takes long steps to capture the materialistic necessities of modern times while he also makes an admission about sinking too far into his own professional life at the cost of relationships, family, and personal connections. He also shows that we can be redeemed even in the late stages of life. For anyone that's struggled with parents that weren't around much, this might be a tough watch at times. However, it's nice to see a character that makes such huge leaps to become a better man, all the while under the constant threat of harm. 

I've always been a fan of Eastwood. From the Westerns to the Dirty Harry films to the projects he's been working on for the past decade, I love his acting.  Yes, he's done some things that fall into grey areas, but overall his entire catalog is filled with some downright amazing movies that will continue his legacy long after he's gone. The Mule is just one of those stories that hits every cue and checks every box, making it one of the most sympathetic and endearing things he's done. This is a must see and should hopefully see some type of Oscar nomination. It damn well deserves it. 

-Chris George