Mystic River
2003
Tragedy reunites childhood friends Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Jimmy (Sean Penn) when they're linked together in the Boston-based murder investigation of Jimmy's teenage daughter. But while detective Sean works the case, Jimmy launches his own quest for the truth. This taut thriller from director Clint Eastwood won two acting Oscars (for Robbins and Penn) and was nominated for several more in its exploration of human behavior.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

It’s no surprise that Eastwood doesn’t care about the whodunit details of the murder even as he expertly reveals the solution. He also certainly doesn’t care about style, though he gets that right too. This film is whole-heartedly about its themes, most centrally the theme of loyalty, and it’s one of the best meditations on the subject in recent cinema. Incongruous elements, such as detective Bacon’s seeming obliviousness, all finally make sense (or not) in a smartly ambiguous ending that forces you to think it over. The acting quality goes without saying. There’s even room for a criticism of gentrification.

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