Frances Winston reviews The Mule, a film starring and directed by Clint Eastwood
Directed by: Clint Eastwood – Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García, Alison Eastwood, Tassia Farmiga
Cinemas are currently awash with movies based on true events, and this is no exception. Helmed by, and starring, Eastwood, they have changed the name of the real-life character this is inspired by. So instead of Leo Sharp, we get Earl Stone.
Although it’s hard to think of Eastwood as elderly, Stone is a 90-year-old horticulturalist, who, due to various reasons, is staring bankruptcy and ruin in the face.
Desperate for cash, he manages to ingratiate himself with a Mexican drugs cartel, and become a ‘Mule’, transporting cocaine for them. Thanks to his age and spotless background, he is able to travel relatively anonymously, making him the perfect choice for the gang.
However, Earl also isn’t ingrained into the gang lifestyle, and puts family first, sparking their ire. This is compounded by the fact that the DEA is cracking down on the cartels, and it is only a matter of time before the wheels fall off his operation.
The premise of this is extremely interesting, and all the more remarkable because it is true, and Eastwood does a great job as the grizzled, stubborn, and not always likeable, Earl. The supporting cast is astonishing, reading like a who’s who, and all are wonderful, although some are sinfully underused.
Eastwood has shot this thoughtfully, and the roads travelled by Earl on his drug runs almost seem to serve as a metaphor for life paths (although you don’t have to delve that deep to enjoy this).
There are one or two messy moments – the opening feels a bit clunky, and some of the scenes with Earl’s family feel more like exposition than drama – but overall, this is a solid and steady picture. Much like Eastwood himself.
Given the age of the protagonist, there are no full octane action-scenes, and this can sometimes cause it to feel as if it drags. However, if you stick with it, this is not only a lovely swan-song for Eastwood (who will probably never perform on screen again) but also a nice, unassuming, somewhat thought-provoking and engaging drama.
It won’t be a contender for any best-picture awards in a season saturated with real life stories, but it is worth 116 minutes of your time.
In Cinemas January 25th! Trailer below: