Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne
For his 24th outing as a director, Eastwood has chosen the complex novel by Dennis Lehane, and he has brought us a gem, certainly one of his best ever films and one with instant classic written on every frame.
The story begins in the boyhoods of three Boston boys, one of whom is abducted and sexually abused for several days.
Over 20 years later we rejoin the friends, one of whose daughter has been brutally murdered. One of the friends, now a detective, investigates the killing and another of the three becomes a suspect.
On one level - one of many, for this is a brilliantly multi-layered thriller - it is a strongly-constructed whodunit, but Eastwood draws from the story several thoughtful strands which consider the meaning of revenge and the baggage from the past which can colour all our lives.
There is a constant examination of human nature throughout the film, it's violence and complexity, and Eastwood, at 73 still capable of finding new ways from which to extract stunning and provoking cinema, returns to peak form with this memorable work.
The collective playing of the cast lies at the core of the film's brilliance. Penn is outstanding as the father of the victim, Robbins equally so as the traumatised victim of the abuse and the suspect. Bacon and Fishburne are the detectives who must unravel the case. Gay Harden and Linney are, perhaps, given the weakest of the film's characters, but they still produce strong performances.
But the film belongs to Eastwood - he has even composed the musical score - and he is in complete control of its emotional drive throughout. It is a dark and sombre story and it is one of the most engrossing films in years.