Clint Eastwood’s run in the twenty-first century has seen more acclaim than most expected. Sure, he’s had some duds with Jersey Boys and The 15:17 to Paris and J. Edgar, but since 2000 he’s also given us acting showcases like Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, tight historical retellings like Sully, American Sniper and Flags of Our Fathers. He’s given us a war-movie all-timer, too, with Letters from Iwo Jima. Oh, and Gran Torino. This guy works.
Eastwood’s latest (and second of the year), The Mule, looks to be in the tradition of Gran Torino more than anything else in his recent catalogue. He’s back on that grizzled, regretful man beat, but his rhythm is still steady. The movie’s about a drug mule who, in light of the law closing in on his operation, faces all his errors in life for a grand late-stage reckoning. There’s a failed marriage here and failed parenthood; that’s Oscar stuff.
Along with the Dick Cheney biopic Vice, The Mule adds some clout to a December moviegoing month that was otherwise populated by indies like Roma and If Beale Street Could Talk. Those movies will be around for the Academy Awards, but they won’t be as widely seen as Vice or this one.
The awards season is in full swing. The Mule will arrive during its final act, on December 14.