NOW well into his 80s, Clint Eastwood is among the most prolific filmmakers and an established Hollywood eminence. In addition to his many legendary performances (including five as Dirty Harry in the early days), he has directed and produced more than 30 films, and for some of them composed the music as well. In 2002 Eastwood produced, directed and starred in Blood Work (Thursday, 8.30pm, M Thriller/ Crime), the forerunner of mature masterpieces such as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Flags of our Fathers, which crowned his directing career. In Blood Work he plays a retired FBI agent who suffers a heart attack during a murder investigation and is given the heart of a murderer in a transplant operation. Put like that, it sounds strained and melodramatic. But Brian Helgeland’s screenplay, from a novel by Michael Connelly, works as a gritty procedural, an efficient thriller and an ironic commentary on notions of mortality. Jeff Daniels and Anjelica Huston are convincing in supporting roles.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Tuesday, 8.30pm, M Drama/Romance) is a delightful fable from director Michel Gondry, with a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, a specialist in paradoxical fantasy (as we know from Being John Malkovich and Adaptation). Jim Carrey is Joel, a lonely office worker who meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) by chance on a railway platform. They fall in love, but Joel is appalled to discover a few days later that Clementine has no memory of him. Unsure of their relationship, she has sought the services of Lacuna Inc, a shady outfit that specialises in erasing selected memories. The result is a poignant little love story in a sci-fi wrapper with some agreeable comic twists and special effects. Occasionally Gondry surprises us, but we never lose touch with the essential humanity of the characters.
The best film about the global financial crisis is Margin Call (Saturday, 4.15pm, M Premiere), a first feature by writer-director JC Chandor set in a Wall Street investment bank (strongly suggestive of Lehman Brothers), where the action takes place across 36 hours. When someone discovers the firm is about to go belly up, everyone conspires, first, to conceal the fact, and then to profit from it with a fire sale of toxic assets. There are great performances from Jeremy Irons as the firm’s chief executive and Kevin Spacey as a middle-management man with a conscience, but only in a remote sense is the film about real people. It’s about the impersonal workings of the finance industry, the juggling of electronic fortunes on screens — the world of fabulous wealth largely called into being by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and described by satirist Michael Wharton as the empire of imaginary money’’. With the hard-edge urgency of the best documentaries, Margin Call has wit, pathos and style.
★★★ ✩ Tuesday, 8.30pm, M Drama/Romance
(M) ★★★ ✩ Thursday, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 4.15pm, M Premiere
Eastwood and Huston