December 28, 1971 [Dirty Harry]

Clint Eastwood is best when he's still, his face like an old-before-his-time bird of prey--but not just old: smart, seeing the terrain clearly, measuring, moving without hesitation. At the same time, he's out of place, the only person in the room without a friend, reminding me of John Wayne--lanky, though, almost scrawny--but without Gary Cooper's soft edge--especially as Dirty Harry Callahan, breathing his lines from a well, his face screwed up with the stink of things.

Don Siegel directs Dirty Harry, and he understands Eastwood, the two of them so sparse and matter-of-fact that Dirty Harry made me think of Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, both movies no-frills fantasies, paranoia for once the only way to go--reaching a point of peril that only a cutting shovel or "the most powerful handgun in the world" can resolve--both built to separate villains' heads from their bodies. And both movies also trade in uncertainty, white hats switched for black, and back and forth, until you're forced to choose the devil you know, Harry and his Magnum, the last man not yet an alien and still eager to save the world.


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