Million Dollar Baby

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Million Dollar Baby -- Eastwood brings home gold with this masterpiece

Mar 10, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great direction, Outstanding use of light, great script, top-notch acting

Cons:none

The Bottom Line: Million Dollar Baby is a film that shows what movies are all about. A great story, with great dramatic emotions, and extremely well-developed characters.


Following up last years gem of Mystic River was going to be tough for Clint Eastwood, and few people thought that he could match the dramatic emotion that the film brought. But, with Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood again has found a script that not only magnifies the talents of the actors involved, but extends beyond what we see on the screen. The only word that we have to describe this film, is that it is a masterpiece. We are told the story of an aging trainer and cut-man, and the southern waitress who comes through the door of his gym one day. The film is narrated from the start, by Morgan Freeman, who also stars as an ex-boxer who has worked with Eastwood's character for years. Telling the story from a 3rd part like this, was a stroke of sheer genius by Eastwood, and only adds to the understanding of the emotions flowing through all of the lead characters. With that set up as the basis of those 3 characters, we are then taken on a ride through 2 to 3 years of their lives.

Hilary Swank plays the role of Maggie Fitzgerald, who at the age of 31, has decided she needs to recruit a trainer to make her a better boxer. Having struggled to make ends meet for years, the only thought in her heart, is that she can become a great boxer with the right assistance. Maggie has not had a supportive family, and has been saving every penny in order to make her one dream come true. She becomes determined to have Frankie Dunn (played by Eastwood) be her trainer, and she does her best to convince him that he should do it. Dunn wants no part of a woman fighter, and sees the sport as being something far less than great. Training a woman is not something that he wants to take on, and he does his best to refute her intentions. It won't ruin the movie if I share that he eventually takes her on as a student, and does his best to improve the raw talent that she obviously possesses. Their story moves in one direction, as the two try to make her the best fighter possible.

The story doesn't just go in a singular direction though, as we have Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, an ex-boxer, who is thrown into the mix. Dupris is played by Morgan Freeman, and is now a custodial worker for the facility that Eastwood now runs. Having fought 109 official boxing matches, Freeman has seen the good and the bad that the boxing world has to offer. Serving as the narrator in the same fashion that he did in Shawshank Redemption Freeman does a great job of expressing the facts of everything that is going on in the film, and leaving the emotions to the viewers. That is to say, that he isn't trying to convince us of anything, but rather tells it how it is, and lets us interpret it any way we see fit. Luckily for the viewers, we are also able to see deep into his own life simply by the actions he takes on a daily basis, and the way that he conducts himself at his job. Freeman is great in this role, and it really shows why he won an Academy award for it.

With the triangle of Eastwood, Freeman, and Swank, the film goes deep into what makes each of the character tick, but at the same time, leaves a lot of open-ended material for the audience to discern for themselves. It is great films like this, that make you have to figure out exactly what a person is thinking, and you aren't spoon-fed what your opinion of each character. This allows one viewer to come away respecting Eastwood, and another to come away despising him. It all comes down to interpretation, and Eastwood shows why he is one of the best in the game, by using very deep subject material, and making the emotions really ring true. Cinematographer, Tom Stern, also deserves a lot of credit for the way he uses light to create scenes in the film. Stepping from light to dark in the gym, or having sequences where the light paces the conversations is a great trick that he also masters within this film. It adds a lot to the dramatic effect the actors are going for, and raises the film to a completely different level.

There is something that makes all of Eastwood's movies great, and that is his attention to detail with the supporting casts. In Million Dollar Baby, though there are only 3 real main characters, you still come away with the feeling that you know all of the people in the film very well. This is because he takes the time to develop minor story lines, and puts importance in making sure that we understand where each of them is coming from. This includes some quirky members of the gym, a rival boxing promoter, and even a priest that Frankie confides in on a weekly basis. The trick to it all, is making the audience really care about all of the people in the film. Whether it be that we want them to succeed, or we want them to get what’s coming to them, Eastwood is able to bring a dramatic realism to everyone involved in the film. At the end of his movies, we are left emotionally drained, because we find ourselves entirely wrapped up in the themes he is presenting.

To say that Million Dollar Baby is simply about boxing, is to completely miss the intent of this film. It is the story of 3 people whose lives have intertwined, and just coincidentally like to be around the sport of boxing. It is a film about improving oneself, and not giving up on a goal, even if the world says it is impossible. Eastwood goes one better than any other film this year, with his utter attention to every detail in the movie. A great example is when Frankie is first teaching Maggie how to box "the right way." Credit has to be given to Swank here, because her character is able to just listen, and not be absorbed in physical movements, or by what is going on around her. This film has infused Eastwood as one of the best Directors we have ever seen, and brings a lot of respect to a sport that has been suffering a great deal lately. Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman were all very deserving of their acting awards from this film, and there is not enough that can be done to praise the work they have put into this film. Million Dollar Baby was very deserving of its Best Picture Award, and I highly recommend that everyone see this film.



Recommend this product? Yes

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