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The steady rise of Clint Eastwood’s career parallels a pressing desire in American society over the past five decades for a figure and story of purpose, meaning, and redemption. Eastwood has not only told and filmed that story, he has come to embody it for many in his public image and film persona. Eastwood responds to a national yearning for a vision of individual action and initiative, personal responsibility, and potential for renewal. An iconic director and star for his westerns, urban thrillers, and adventure stories, Eastwood has taken film art to new horizons of meaning in a series of masterpieces that engage the ethical and moral consciousness of our times, including Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, and Mystic River. He revolutionized the war film with the unprecedented achievement of filming the opposing sides of the same historic battle in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, using this saga to present a sharply critical representation of the new America that emerged out of the war, a society of images and spectacles.
This timely examination of Clint Eastwood’s oeuvre against the backdrop of contemporary America will be fascinating reading for students of film and popular culture, as well as readers with interests in Eastwood’s work, American film and culture.
Sam Girgus is professor of English at Vanderbilt University.