Clint Eastwood directs this grim, Oscar-winning thriller from 2003 about an investigation following the death of a young girl in a Boston neighbourhood. It stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon as three friends who each have a connection to the case in some way.
The film is essentially a murder mystery with Bacon and Laurence Fishburne as the detectives and everyone else as the suspects. We're first introduced to the main characters as children and learn that one of them was abducted and abused by two strangers for four days in a dark basement once, which makes for not exactly the most uplifting start to the proceedings but which becomes an important plot point later. We then catch up with the grown up kids years later: Dave (Robbins), who was abused, is now married and has a child, Jimmy (Penn) is an ex-thief with a family and dodgy connections and Sean (Bacon) is a cop. When Jimmy's daughter is found killed one morning, everyone's world is turned upside down and the search for the murderer begins.
Jimmy, eaten up by rage, is thrown back into the criminal world as he leads his own investigation and Dave soon becomes the prime suspect since he admitted the night before to being involved in an altercation and was clearly affected by the ordeal he suffered as a child. This is a fascinating look at three people who were once close and how a single event can snowball and impact their lives a long time after. Eastwood once again goes for a colourless look and that dark, blueish cinematography he tends to go for with every one of his films except, this time, it's appropriate and helps give the film a realistic feel. You can tell the story is based on a novel by the way in which it develops yet the film is cinematic enough to make you forget that early on. Parts of the ending can be a little predictable but this remains a really well made modern whodunit and a perfectly told story.
Mystic River is easily one of Clint Eastwood's best films as director, if not the best. The cast is excellent throughout as is the writing. It's not the most upbeat story you'll ever witness but this is an effective thriller that's well worth checking out.