A Korean War veteran and a horticulturist, 90-year-old Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is a wreck both on emotional and financial terms as he faces the ignorance of his estranged family along with the imminent closure of his business. One day after a heated argument with his wife Mary (Dianne West) at a party, Earl is introduced to a group of people who’d pay him a hefty sum only for transporting a bag of drugs (unbeknownst to him) to a different place. Helpless and in dire need of money, Earl accepts the proposal. Though he plans it to be a one-time affair, financial requirements force him to become a regular package transporter for the drug cartel which would eventually result in him becoming their top mule.
Positive Points: –
- The performances, especially that of Clint Eastwood and Dianne West.
- The Mule resists melodrama and cheap commercial thrill elements as it depicts a compelling drama which lives up with its matured premise.
- The film crafts characters who are as human as any of us are which makes the story a lot more convincing and the characters a lot more believable.
Negative Points: –
- It wasn’t necessary to stretch the movie to 2 hours. It could have been way shorter and still effective provided we believe that the makers intended no additional character arcs in it.
- Though I loved almost all the characters, I think some of them such as Earl’s daughter, granddaughter and Julio could have entertained a bit more development and more interactions with the main character.
The General Aspects: –
In his 5 decennia long career as a director alone (as an actor add a couple more decades), Clint Eastwood has made all kinds of movies you can expect from a filmmaker, except a superhero flick. What’s interesting about his works is how different each one is from the previous ones and while you can always point out similarities, the differences are no less conspicuous. After a tepid show with The 15:17 To Paris, a film like The Mule was definitely not the safest choice for Eastwood to make a comeback given its maturity and nuances in terms of its characterisations. It could have easily been a commercial thriller with shallow characters and some illogical sequences involving a 90-year-old man performing high profile stunts all because he was a war veteran. But Eastwood and screenwriter Nick Schenk held out against jumping the bandwagon and have built up a film with a lot of sensibilities and true emotions. The film’s basis is heart-rendering but it’s seldom corny. Its people are real, their behaviour is natural and their actions and decisions are wholly human. It’s not a flick that will be appreciated by everyone out there and while many may write it off as a sporadically engaging flick, I’m sure many would still appreciate its matured making. The Mule also manifests excellence in terms of it technicalities such as Joel Cox’s editing and Yves Belanger’s cinematography. However, the cake is taken by Arturo Sandoval’s music and score which somewhat compensate for the film’s prolonged runtime.
It’s sometimes difficult to decide whether Clint Eastwood is more proficient as an actor or as a filmmaker but I guess it hardly matters as he is a maestro in both fields and that can be easily seen in The Mule. He is both a broken old man with a failed family life and a badass war veteran who despite his senility is ready to face all odds possible. His portrayal of Earl Stone is poignant and it won’t be wrong to say that he carries the entire film on his shoulders without faltering even once.
Dianne West is the next best thing when it comes to the performances. Her tussle with her onscreen husband is one of the most consistent elements in the film and it evolves beautifully with her character as time passes by resulting in the movie’s best sentimental moments. All other actors which include acting heavyweights like Bradley Cooper. Lawrence Fishburne and Andy Garcia along with the less prominent yet talented people like Taissa Farmiga and Ignacio Serrichio perform satisfactorily in their respective areas and personas.
Final Verdict: –
Clint Eastwood’s The Mule could have been a commercial thriller in every possible manner but it isn’t. The movie is well executed in almost all fields of filmmaking be it the technicalities or the writing or the acting. It’s not showy or cheap or pretentious and is rather a thought-provoking film which is real to the core and has a lot of subtleties which require quite a matured outlook to appreciate.