By Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Online
Clint Eastwood's latest directorial offering, Mystic River, is being hailed as his best effort since the 1992 Oscar winner Unforgiven.
Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn star as old childhood friends
For once, it's a film that really does live up to the critical hype.
This adaptation of Dennis Lehane's 2001 novel is a compelling, powerful piece of work, the kind that haunts you long after the credits have rolled.
It also boasts a flawless ensemble cast that could well dominate the acting categories come Oscar time.
In the disturbing prologue, three young friends are torn apart by a childhood incident which sees one of them kidnapped and abused by two men posing as cops.
Fast forward twenty-five years and the trio, now played by Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins, are reunited in tragic circumstances when Penn's teenage daughter is brutally murdered.
Bacon, now a police detective, is called upon to investigate the crime while Robbins, whose character is still deeply troubled by the events of the past, becomes suspect number one when he arrives home on the night of the murder covered in blood.
This is grim stuff, and if it's a light-hearted night at the movies you're after you're not going to find it here.
Yet this is that rare thing - a Hollywood thriller which doesn't insult the intelligence and drums up unbearable tension (especially in the final reel) without resorting to cheap gimmicks or overblown special effects.
A sparse, haunting soundtrack, also composed by Eastwood, adds to the atmosphere and mood.
Every performance is superb, from the supporting cast of Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney, through to the career-best turns of Penn and Robbins.
It's a little overlong, and the ambiguous ending will frustrate those viewers hoping for a safer, happier conclusion - but otherwise this tour-de-force is hard to fault.
Mystic River is now showing across the UK.
A selection of your reviews are below.
I couldn't have reviewed it better myself.
A thought-provoking, warm-hearted, human and humane study of life's impossibly wretched tragedies all inter-woven into a single drama.
Brilliantly told, beautifully acted - I've never been a big fan of Sean Penn but he's proved himself an actor of huge stature here. De Niro would have hammed it up but Penn was subtlety itself. Any film which leaves you slightly perplexed at the end is a great film. Eastwood leaves no clear moral judgements apart from the obvious ones and that greatly benefits the viewer's after-taste.
A well acted and directed piece, I did enjoy it. However I guessed the identity of the killer long before the end which kinda negated the tension of the final scenes. I also think the last 5 mins of the film didn't fit somehow. Top notch performances though.
In my opinion, Mystic River (excellent movie) is a subtle social commentary on American┐s foreign policies since the events of Sept 11. The movie reviews of the week all rave about the film┐s Oscar contention through its excellent casting and intelligent adaptation but the richly developed characters and brilliant ending warrant an examination over the issues of justifiable homicide for power and security. The themes: tragedy, hatred, anger and a hasty resolution to quench grieve and loss.
Great movie, great cast, very intense, best movie I've seen in years.
Eastwood will have to make room for a second Oscar.
Robert del Valle,
Mystic River is the kind of cinematic experience that leaves a long-lasting impression on the viewer. The themes explored by the screenplay are so dark and haunting. Clint Eastwood's direction is so precise and restrained, allowing the beautiful performances and the screenplay to shine through. Sean Penn, Tim Tobbins and Marcia Gay Harden give three of the best performances of this year while Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Laura Linney also impress in their respective roles. It's a movie that you won't regret seeing.
Is it me, or is Sean Penn starting to resemble Ronnie Barker?
Paul S, UK
This is without a doubt one of the best films of the year. No showing off, no flashiness. Just good old fashioned storytelling and fantastic film making. All the performances were amazing and the direction very intuitive. The film was very haunting and will stay with you for a good while after the credits roll.
James Tully, UK
Don't buy the hype! Mystic River is a huge disappointment: Pretentious, slow-moving and implausible. Sean Penn does give a powerful and very believable performance, but the glacial pacing, melodramatic orchestral flourishes and easy characterisations (Tim Robbins as the pathetic abuse victim, Marcia Gay Harden as his spooked, apparently semi-retarded wife, Laura Linney morphing in the last five minutes into a Back Bay Lady Macbeth) do not add up to a satisfying film.
Michael Fairbairn, USA