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Both tender apologia and vigorous justification, Clint Eastwood's "The Mule" is a fascinatingly personal meditation from the 88-year-old director who, like his aged drug mule protagonist, has spent a long time on the road. "The Mule" is the indefatigable Eastwood's second film just this year, following "The 15:17 to Paris," a distinctly undramatic dramatization of the thwarted 2015 train attack, starring the real-life heroes.Eastwood isn't playing himself in "The Mule" (far from it) but it's hard not to appreciate and be moved by the film's many echoes for the filmmaker, acting for the first time in one of his own since 2008's similarly self-reflective "Gran Torino". Some are silly, others profound, but rarely does "The Mule" not reverberate with Eastwood's own mythology in intriguing, if sometimes painfully awkward ways.As "The Mule" ambles toward its conclusion, it draws closer to Stone, and maybe to Eastwood's legacy, too.When Stone makes a reckoning with his ex-wife and daughter (Eastwood's late scenes with Wiest are the best in the film), it's hard not to wonder if Eastwood (whose expansive family attended the film's premiere) is channeling his own misgivings over a nonstop career.
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