He's been either infront of or behind the camera for over the last 35 years, and recently he's done both. Does Clint Eastwood's latest deserve his normal award-flirtation?
In a word, no. Eastwood's name is associated with a body of work that slow burns but literally during that time, pulls you in, ties you down and without you realising, tugs at your heart-strings to the point of moist eyes and nose sniffles. If "Million Dollar Baby" or "Gran Turino" didn't emotionally hook you then you maybe the lucky one as you won't be crushed by Eastwood's mis-fire presented here.
For the fist time, he treads on new ground - instead of the spirit of the individual, it's the spiritual side; instead of a tight camera on compelling characters, it's a soft-focus ensemble piece; no straight lined story but a multi-stranded screenplay; and instead of a cast delivering heaven, it's a hell of a job of either under-used or mis-cast people.
Damon hands in a credible "Good Will Hunting" performance - all hurt, confusion and internal struggle - and does his best opposite the wondrous Dallas Howard who appears all-too-briefly during the first act. However the twin child from London that ties together the separate strands during the final act, drags almost any emotion that may have been forming from Damon's struggle and De France's coping with her tsunami survival, squarely out and kills it flat out. It makes you long for Haley Joel Osmet's return.
When a multi-strand plot delivers the pay-off and unites them for all to see, it should be illuminating, not laborious. The reveal where all 3 stories converge simply isn't strong nor compelling enough to justify Eastwood's slow-paced journey to it.
The film is not without it's moments however - the non-fussy, quietly confident handling of the tsunami hitting the beach resort at the outset shows the Roland Emmerich's and Michael Bay's that there are other ways to shoot disasters other than spinning camera's and fast edits, and Damon and Dallas Howard's blind-fold cookery class is up there with other great burgeoning romances but two scenes do not make a movie.
Mr Eastwood: thank you for your exploration of new ground but please go back to toying with our emotions as only you can do in the style that suits you... and us.
UK release date: 28/01/11