Heartbreak Ridge

Released January 1, 1986

Further exploring his screen persona, producer-director¬actor Clint Eastwood stars here as Tom Highway, a gruff, foul-mouthed anachronism of the old Marine Corps who drinks too much and is constantly getting in trouble. Near¬ing retirement age, having alienated most of his superiors, Highway asks to end his career where it began and is transferred to perform gunnery sergeant duties in his old outfit. There, the small reconnaissance platoon he is to train proves to be a group of lazy malcontents who feel that they've been duped by the slick military advertising on television. Earning the admiration of these young hotshots by besting them physically and mentally at every turn, Highway proceeds to whip them into a self-respecting fighting unit that knows how to work as a team. He also tries to rekindle the love of his ex-wife, Aggie (Marsha Mason), who divorced him because she was tired of his insensitivity and love for the military. Highway hopes to impress her with his newfound awareness ("Did we mutu¬ally nurture each other?" he clumsily asks her), culled from women's magazines on the sly. Just as it seems that he is making progress with Aggie, however, Highway and his men are sent off to a small Caribbean island none of them has ever heard of—Grenada—to rescue American medi¬cal students from a hostile Marxist government backed by Cuban troops. HEARTBREAK RIDGE has drawn flak from those who think Eastwood somehow endorsed the Gre¬nada invasion by refusing to overtly criticize it. But East¬wood isn't interested in the political meaning of the action; what concerns him is how it defines his characters, who only want to survive, not analyze, the conflict. The strengths and foibles of human beings are what this film—and all of Eastwood's directorial efforts—is all about, and his Tom Highway is one of the most vividly etched male characters seen on-screen in years. Eastwood makes no apologies for this man who knows only how to train men to kill, but he does understand him. Highway knows he is an anachronism and that he will soon have to leave the only role in which he feels confident; he has made the Marines his family, but now that family is rejecting him in favor of a much more glamorous image. He isn't the kind of man who is willing to wallow in his mistakes, however, and in the only way he knows how he makes an attempt to understand the woman he has taken for granted, who will be his salvation. (The beautifully played scenes between Eastwood and Mason are some of the most telling and realistic between a man and a woman to be found in any recent film.) East¬wood believes that people can change, that contact with others can enlighten, and that attempting to understand one another is extremely valuable, but his characters are close-mouthed, wary, and afraid of appearing vulnerable, simply because they are vulnerable. He proves that it is still possible to infuse "an entertainment" with greater rele¬vance. Eastwood fans who choose to simply watch and root for the "good guys" will not be disappointed by HEARTBREAK RIDGE, but neither will those looking for insights into the human condition."

Heartbreak Ridge Movie Reviews

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