True Grit (2010)

February 21, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

BLT & Associates

What Worked?

A tenacious, stirringly rugged tale of retribution with a bullet, True Grit completely embodies its name. The Coen brothers are on point, delivering their most accessible film yet, without losing their unique voice. All aspects of the film work well from the beautiful cinematography, to the snapping dialogue, masterful direction and winning performances. True Grit is a crowd-pleasing Western that would make its predecessor proud.

From the opening shot of a nervously steady house with glowing windows and a poor soul set dead in front sprinkled with snow, many of the shots captured feel tangible, putting the viewers in the frame. The Coen brothers make one feel the cool white snow, smell the dirty whiskey, and hear the metallic barks of the six-shooters. Simply put, the cinematography beautifully enhances the experience of the film.

Based off the novel of Charles Portis, the script written by Joel and Ethan Coel is cleverly entertaining in a way only the Coen brothers can do it. There are some similar scenes to the 1969 take of the novel, but everything is handled in a fresh manner.  The dialogue is smart and even comedic enough to be quotable. The script also allows the characters to grow naturally through their relationships with one another.

This film is also golden performance-wise. Hailee Steinfeld, the young talent filling in one of the main roles as Mattie Ross, oozes with confidence and a scorching attitude. She is a wonderful newcomer to the acting world and her role in True Grit is the perfect start to becoming a potential household name. Steinfeld delivers her lines with honed viciousness, and carries herself as an equal to the rough men of the time, inviting a bit of biting feminism. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is the standout performance, playing an alcoholic has-been U.S. Marshall that can still turn into the bastard of a badass he once was, when he needs to. Bridges as Cogburn is dirty, raw and battle-tested with a habit of humorously lingering on the past. Rooster Cogburn projects courage, filthiness, aggressive humor and depression, all at once. The rest of the cast fill their rolls to the brim, such as Matt Damon’s role as the Texas talker ranger, LaBoeuf or Josh Brolin’s pathetic Tom Chaney.

The plot is simple, but the richness of the characters keeps the plot from being a predictable Western. Mattie simply chases vengeance, wanting to the kill the man who killed her father, and she hires the murderous U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn for the job. Thrown into the mix is the boyscout of a man, LaBoeuf, who has been chasing Tom Chaney for months. The three embark on a treacherous journey and their personalities make for an entertainingly rough ride. The dialogue, especially during the interaction of the three, makes for some crowd-pleasing lines. On the other hand, the Coens still deliver the bloody goods and build up tightly strung tension to keep the audience from blinking.

Overall, True Grit is pretty much the best Western that has come along our tracks in awhile.
True Grit is a smoking bullet coming from a revolver that shoots true every time; the Coen brothers are right on target once again, and it’s no surprise.

Potential Drawbacks:

There isn’t much to complain about with True Grit; however, there are a few bits that could’ve have been improved, even though I was fine with the final product.

The ending with an older Mattie visiting Cogburn, in the only way she can, feels uneventful. There should be some sort of weight to the scene, but for someone reason it just felt empty to me, as we are invested in the younger version of Mattie. The end of the film should have ended with Mattie at the same age, avoiding the slightly tacky fast-forward into the future ending.

Film Recommendations:

3:10 to Yuma
Leon: The Professional

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