Gran Torino is a movie about guilt, death, life, and redemption. It stars Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski, an aged but genuine American tough guy.
Warning: This review will reveal much of the movie’s plot, so don’t read it if you don’t want to know.
There are a lot of good and some not-quite-as-good themes in the film. Here are some of the main themes in both categories:
1. The equivalency of all religions (not-so-good). The shaman at Kowalski’s Hmong neighbors’ house has as much spiritual insight in the film as the Catholic priest does. He read’s Kowalski’s soul, and is portrayed as a true spiritual counselor.
2. The picture of manhood (good and not-as-good). This is a mixed one, because there is definitely a stereotype in the movie that real men cuss, work on cars, fix sinks, and drink a lot of beer. But there is also a good portrayal of a man who loved his wife, felt deeply guilty about a moment of infidelity (kissing another woman), and who is not afraid to stand up for what is ultimately right. I think that the world would do well with more men like Walt Kowalski, but with such men who also know and love Jesus. I think the end of the film shows a picture of the kind of true, redeemed men that the world needs. Men who are not afraid, but who are willing to sacrifice.
3. Courage (good). This is part of the previous category, but it is such a strong theme that it deserves its own point. Eastwood plays a man who is not afraid. Part of him is not afraid for bad reasons, but overall I think the portrayal of courage is a powerful theme in Gran Torino. He stands up to, stares down, beats down, and ultimately delivers himself up to the bad guys.
4. Redemption (good). There is a picture of substitution and repentance involved in this theme. Kowalski willing sacrifices his own life for his friends (sounds like a Bible verse). He delivers himself up to death to protect them. There is an implicit repentance in this act, because he does not retaliate with violence as it seems he might have at another point in his life. He wins through loss. It’s a great picture of the Gospel in many ways.
Overall, I think Gran Torino is worth your time. There is a lot of foul language and ethnic slurs, so you won’t want to take your young children. It is not a “Christian movie”: there are definitely non-Christian, even anti-Christian themes painted in a positive light. But there are a lot of Christian themes portrayed positively as well.