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Needing the One You Hate: Frenemies from Casablanca to The Eagle

Posted January 07, 2011 to photo album "Needing the One You Hate: Frenemies from Casablanca to The Eagle"

Esca, the Celtic Slave, and Aquila, the Roman master, may appear an unlikely team in The Eagle, but the plot of enemies turned friends is a classic cinematic trope.

Slide 1: Roman/Celt
Slide 2: Apolitical/Collaborator | Casablanca (1942)
Slide 3: The Heiress/the Reporter | It Happened One Night (1934)
Slide 4: Sober/Drunk | The African Queen (1951)
Slide 5: Black/White | The Defiant Ones (1958)
Slide 6: Old/Young | True Grit (1969)
Slide 7: Cop/Crook | 48 Hours (1982)
Slide 8: Prisoner/Keeper | Midnight Run (1988)
Slide 9: Hippie/Straight Dude | Flashback (1990)
Slide 10: Finn/Russian | The Cuckoo (2002)
Slide 11: Old Man/Korean Kid | Gran Torino (2008)
Slide 11: Old Man/Korean Kid | Gran Torino (2008)

Slide 11: Old Man/Korean Kid | Gran Torino (2008)

Take a curmudgeonly, xenophobic Korean war veteran, Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), and a young Asian American teenager, Thao Vang Lor (Bee Vang), and it's not difficult to see that they're not going to get along. And good relations are even more unlikely if you add in the fact that Thao tries to steal Walt's beloved 1972 Gran Torino. And yet in Clint Eastwood's final movie before retiring as an actor, Gran Torino, the two form a surprising bond. They are neighbors in Highland Park, a Detroit suburb where gangs run rampant, and when Thao (who was made to steal Walt's car as an initiation rite and makes it up to Walt by doing work for him) wants to retreat from gang life, Walt assumes the role of protector for both him and his sister Sue. “Gradually and grudgingly, Walt takes the boy under his wing and takes it upon himself to "man him up" a bit—but only after Walt first steps across the property line and into the Hmong world,” wrote the Village Voice's Scott Foundas. “At its most didactic, Gran Torino has Walt stare into a mirror and realize that he has more in common with these "foreigners" than he does with his own flesh and blood, but more often, the movie works by subtle implication. Where Korea was Walt's war, Vietnam was the Hmong's. Both understand that a man who has seen war can never not be that man, and that the kind of absolution Walt Kowalski seeks won't be found in a confessional.”