If it’s true that time stops for no man, then it equally holds that Clint Eastwood, 76, does not stop for time. In the 15 years since he received his first Best Director Oscar for Unforgiven, Eastwood has helmed a dozen films, two of which — Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby — received additional nods. That he accomplished this while entering his 70s (his win for Baby made him, at 74, the oldest person to ever win a Best Director Oscar) is impressive. That he has done it yet again is astounding.
Sure, there’s been filler — the Blood Works, the Absolute Powers, the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evils — but at his most effective, as he is in Letters From Iwo Jima, this Dirty Harry, this former angel of death, is unparalleled in portraying the tragic consequences of violence and unchallenged in the empathy he elicits from his audience toward a formerly hazy enemy. To allow us to see through the eyes of the Japanese who fought so fiercely against our grandparents in World War II is a massive feat.
In some ways, Letters From Iwo Jima marks the ultimate late-career reversal. While Eastwood once said ”I’m not that haunted by my past,” the actor-director seems keen on repenting, on making us aware that violence is often for naught — no matter what side you happen to be fighting for. The last time Eastwood was a contender for Best Director, he beat out Martin Scorsese. This year’s race looks to be no less interesting — no matter which side you happen to be rooting for.