Commentary: Gran Torino is a Great Easter Movie
This Holy Week I’ve been thinking about my favorite Christian film. It’s also my favorite Clint Eastwood picture. It’s called Gran Torino. If you watch the trailer I’m linking to here you’ll start to get my point. There is a scene in the picture where Eastwood’s character, Walt, spots a neighbor girl about to be assaulted by a gang of thugs. He struggles about whether to get involved. Both Moses and Jesus asked God to lift their burdens. Moses suffered from a stammer and believed he couldn’t be a proper messenger. Jesus in the garden and knowing his fate asked for a reprieve. God kept them both on the paths of their missions. When chosen it isn’t easy to refuse the Creator of all that is seen and unseen.
Walt’s old fashioned gallantry saves the day. Many times. We learn he served his country, was deeply in love with his departed wife and is distraught as well his city and neighborhood have collapsed. He doesn’t much like minorities but not because he believes he’s better than his new neighbors. They’ve become part of the view of the decline he sees from his front porch.
He’s burdened by past mistakes. At confession he tells his priest he once kissed a woman not his wife at a Christmas Party four decades before. It’s a burden he has carried with shame. He is seeking redemption but he can’t quite describe it that way.
Diagnosed with cancer and knowing at his advanced age he’s going to die Walt rallies to the defense of his oppressed neighborhood. Like Jesus the main character of Gran Torino knows the hour of his death. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. “ John 15:13
At the end we see Walt’s lifeless corpse, arms flung out at his sides in imagery of death on the cross. In one hand is a cigarette lighter with his old unit insignia, a clear sign of a man still in service to his comrades. In the very last scene of the show we see his young friend and neighbor driving another symbol. Walt’s beloved Gran Torino, which the older man bequeathed to the younger. A symbol of the tradition and goodness Walt and his generation represented and currently in short supply. As the car races off into the distance we understand a seed has been planted. A resurrection of the past.
“He set another parable before them, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.’" Matthew 13:31-32