DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
What a pleasant surprise this film was. I have put off watching this Oscar winning Eastwood directed movie for years, not being the greatest boxing fan, but this is not really a boxing film. It is a story of family, loss and faith, one which takes a surprising turn in the third act and manages to be as uplifting as it is depressing.
Following the rise of fictional female welter-weight fighter, Maggie Fitzgerald as she is reluctantly taken on by Clint Eastwood’s boxing trainer Frankie Dunn. But things take a turn as during her first and last championship fight, Maggie his hit after the bell by her opponent, landing badly and breaking her neck, leaving her paralysed from the neck down.
It is at this point that all the film’s disparate threads come together to lead to an inevitable conclusion. In fact there are several clearly telegraphed scenes in this film but obvious turns of not, I personally admire a film which begins as one thing and ends as another.
Or does it? Million Dollar Baby seems to be a boxing movie, spending the first two third in and out of the ring but finishing up in a rehabilitation centre, yet in many ways, it actually spends the whole film on and off in and around a church. And it ultimately comes down to a moral decision and one which challenges whatever faith Frankie Dunn has, though he acts like an atheist, he clearly holds or held a spiritual belief at some point.
This is more pronounced in the final act.
I was lucky in my ignorance of this film’s plot, a luxury which I might not have had if I had paid more attention at the time of release back in 2004. All in all this as an engrossing, entertaining and poignant film, well written, expertly directed and a credit to all involved.