Winner - Best Picture

Winner - Best Director

Winner - Best Actress (Hilary Swank)

Winner - Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman)

WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2004)

 

Director: Clint Eastwood

 

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby tells the story of Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank), a struggling waitress with aspirations of making it big in the world of boxing. Arriving at Frankie Dunn’s (Eastwood) gym, the ‘Hit Pit’, to train and be mentored she faces stiff resistance from Dunn – he believes girls should fight in someone else’s gym. However, she finds a quiet ally in the unassuming janitor Eddie Dupris (Freeman) who starts to push her further.

 

Based on a series of novels by F.X. Toole, what follows is a gut wrenching tale of the American Dream.

The movie makes full use of its 132 minute runtime, carefully laying the story foundations and the character motivations, allowing them to unfold at a pleasing pace. We learn more about the mindsets and pasts of Dunn and Dupris, why Maggie chooses boxing. Also, her background and vile family is explored and supporting characters such as Danger (Jay Baruchel) and Father Horvak (Brian F. O’Byrne) provide extra narratives for the leads to explore and develop their own stories. Nothing feels rushed within the movie and it only aids the picture.

 

Hilary Swank received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her searing performance as Maggie. Reaching every emotion possible on the spectrum, Swank’s performance is touched with joyful exuberance and painful melancholy that ensures following her characters journey is gripping and the payoff is wrenching. Eastwood and Freeman bring what they do best – reliable, impassioned portrayals. Eastwood’s grizzled, yet well-meaning Dunn is also thrown through a gamut of emotions, but Eastwood is a master and pulls it off with aplomb. Similarly for Freeman, the gravitas he can bring is apparent here and is a wonderful complement for Eastwood, earning him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Freeman also provides narration, so that’s always a bonus.

 

The movie is bursting with messages about values and truths, determination and loyalty, fear and fate and the joys of life. The movie teaches us that it’s OK to fail, that it’s better than to never try. But the messages are never forced down your throat, there are no grand speeches, instead it’s all in the performances and the fabulous work from the cinematographer/DOP and the magnificent soundtrack. The tone of the movie is captured perfectly by sound and visuals. This is a pure movie, no need for bogged-down CGI or effects, just plain strong storytelling.

 

Hand in hand with the storytelling is a marvellous script by Paul Haggis. Once more, it feels genuine, the portrayals of Dunn and Dupris haven’t been soaked in loathing and nostalgia and Maggie’s “trashy” vocal delivery is spot on. The intense scenes between Eastwood and Swank (driving at night, the entire third act) were written beautifully and capture the moments perfectly.

 

A highly emotive, deep and poignant movie, Million Dollar Baby is a knockout picture that delivers on every level and fully deserving of its Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director - it’s a wonderfully and passionately crafted masterpiece.

June 8th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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