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True Grit

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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"The Dude" and Bourne face a gang of ruthless cowboys lead by Jonah Hex.

  • Feb 15, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

"True Grit" is the latest offering from the legendary geniuses that are the Coen Brothers, and upon finishing the film, I can't help but admit that I was indeed quite "wowed". I went into this film expecting no particularly big surprises; and left feeling provoked and shocked by just how different this film was; at least from what I expected it to be. But the second adaptation of "True Grit" is still a damn good one, and in a number of ways, I enjoy it more than the first adaptation, which starred John "The Duke" Wayne. And I enjoyed that one as well. There is a lot going on, artistically, with this film. If you look at it from one angle, it's a fun western. If you look at it from another, it's a well-made coming-of-age story, only made different through the involvement of gunfights, cowboy mayhem, and the exciting feeling of a nigh classic western. This is indeed a very good film. It does not rest amongst the best from Joel and Ethan Coen's filmography, but it's in the same vein as "Miller's Crossing" when it comes to quality. Both films are just as good as each-other; and you should know what that means given the large amount of good that I once said regarding the former. I do not believe that "True Grit" is a masterpiece; and it's not as much of a knock-out as the previous Coen Brothers offering from 2009, "A Serious Man". That's about it for complaints, since enough effort went into visuals, story-telling, and characters here for me to believe that "True Grit" is a mighty fine and praise-worthy adaptation of the novel. Those who complain about this film will approach it with the deceptive idea that it's a remake of the John Wayne film of the same name. It is not a remake of that film; it is, as that movie was, an adaptation of the popular novel. So you can abandon any insulting thought that someone would want to remake John Wayne's classic Western; since nobody has. My best suggestion is that you expect this film to surprise you. Do not expect it to be like "Fargo" and "Blood Simple". The only thing that "True Grit" really has in common with ANY of the Coen Brothers films is that it's funny, entertaining, timely, and all-around well-made. It's a "different" film per se, than previous Coen Brothers films. But that's why it's as good as it is; and that's why I enjoyed it so much. It doesn't do the nigh impossible task of making me love the brothers all over again; but then again, "A Serious Man" was enough to satisfy me for a damn solid while. On its own right, "True Grit" quenches my Coen thirst. And that's good enough for me.

A girl named Mattie Ross' father is shot dead by a man by the name of Tom Chaney. She vows to avenge her father death, but cannot fight this internally ugly brute alone. So she hires a U.S. Marshal named Rooster Cogburn to hunt Chaney down and bring him to town to be hung to the neck 'till death, although like most people, Rooster at first turns her down. But Mattie is persistent, and after earning the trust of a Texas Ranger, she convinces Rooster to join her on a quest for revenge. But Mattie hasn't done so much as fire a gun in her life; so how in the hell is she going to avenge her father's death properly? Under the wing of Cogburn, a lot is possible. And so, the bonding and shoot-outs begin. This is a coming-of-age story told within a Western film. There aren't many good Westerns these days (let alone any), so "True Grit" is a breathe of much appreciated fresh air for those who choose to see it as both a solid Western and a good piece of filmmaking overall. The Coen Brothers have made perfect films before, and while this may not be one of them, "True Grit" is still well-written and superbly entertaining. I advise you to not take a whole lot from the trailers; since nearly all of them suggest that "True Grit" is going to be strictly an action movie. There are action sequences; but the Coen Brothers have made great films and most of them are dialogue driven. If you listen to the conversations that these characters, all of whom are well developed, then you'll get the most out of this film. It's more straight-forward than the mass majority of films to be directed by the Coen Brothers. And strangely enough, that may as well be a part of the charm.

I have no doubt on my mind that Hailee Steinfeld will win awards for her performance in this film. Yes, "True Grit" also stars Jeff Briges, Josh Brolin, and Matt Damon; but to be honest, Steinfeld runs the show here, and she runs it well. She pulls of some of the best goddamn acting I've seen out of a young actress in years, and her spunky and sassy character is totally accessible in an endearing sense. Moving on to the other cast members, Jeff Bridges gives a solid performance as the drunk and often times funny Rooster, with Matt Damon playing his near opposite (a Texas Ranger who acts like a complete gentlemen half of the time). Josh Brolin, of course, plays the villain. Big surprise there. But you know what else is a "big surprise"? That he can do this good when he was in a movie like "Jonah Hex" in the same year. The guy likes to surprise me, doesn't he? I believe he does.

There is a lot that works in "True Grit". This is not the kind of film that I would have expected out of the Coen Brothers, since they don't typically stick to one specific genre for an entire film. "True Grit" is an all-out Western extravaganza, and I had a lot of fun with it. The film could simply be a damn good western, but then again, it could also be seen as yet another artistic film from the dynamic duo. I proudly see it as both. The style of this film works, and somehow, there's plenty of Coen packed into it. The action scenes explode with energy, while the visuals and characters come with plenty of genuine craft. There are not many good films, such as this, that actually work. This is kind of a rare gem; a film that is filmed and conceived so well that in fact, it's kind of unique in its own little way. I won't say that I absolutely loved the film, and it will not in any way go down in history, but it delivered exactly as much "awesome" as I would have wanted it to. To state the utterly obvious, the visuals look incredible. This film has the same crafty cinematography that just about every Coen Brothers film tends to have; and that I could tell merely by watching the trailers. But given the fact that the angles are interesting and the picture quality is perfect makes "True Grit" a visual masterpiece, that is, if it's not a masterpiece overall. But I do admire the sheer craftsmanship involved; and this is one of the best films of 2010 whether it's particularly "great" or not. There's much reason to see the film, and one of those reasons is because art is entertaining, and "True Grit" is some pretty damn good art.

The film tells a story about a journey, with a few side-stops along the way, but nothing that stops the "journey" for a particularly long time. The girl leaves home and grows up with this particular sense of adventure. It was a feeling that she enjoyed, and the film takes us through her ordeals and her times of adventurous joy. This film is very, very good; and by all means I recommend it. It is perhaps pushing the envelope of the PG-13 rating, but should that count as a complaint? I only add that in this review because parents should be cautioned; this film will bore your teen to tears. They will probably walk out because the film features little gun-fights and little explosions. But some of the best films lack large amounts of both; and some of the best films are the films that I go out of my way to watch. This "True Grit" adaptation is energetic, fun, and crafty; all reasons why you should absolutely see the thing as soon as possible. The Coen Brothers are never overly indulgent; and seem to know what they're doing. Here, they have tackled a film that I somewhat doubted they would get right. Yet here I am, writing a very positive review for their latest offering. And I do not feel foolish, in any way, that I liked the film as much as I did. It deserves whatever score I have given it; and it deserves the praise that it has gotten from others. I liked it a lot; and I feel it only right to introduce it to those who find the movies quite silent these days; as in devoid of much genuine goodness. This I find, since cinema is becoming more about money and less about craft, passion, and honesty. The Coen Brothers are a set of directors who will never stop being good. They will always be a pair of crafty bastards, and their craft is what I like about them the most. "True Grit" is another great example of what these guys can do with a movie camera. And given what they've done before, I recommend "True Grit". Most will, in fact, enjoy the film. But only if you choose to see it from more than one angle.

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February 23, 2011
This was indeed a good film as are all Coen films.
February 25, 2011
Yes, indeed. Almost all of their movies are good.
February 18, 2011
awesome review, Ryan! I really liked this one myself and after watching the 1969 film again, it further cements what I claimed that this was the superior film. Nice comment on this film being 'crafty' and thank you for your reviews! I am slowing working through the new ones... :)
February 19, 2011
More True Grit reviews
review by . December 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I have no idea how many times I have stated the rules for filming a movie that remakes an iconic original. Well, if you’re one of those folks who’ve never read any of my reviews before, they are quite simple: 1) It must broaden the scope that is covered by the original film while adapting it for a much more modern audience. 2) It must follow the essence and the spirit of the said material (in this case the book). 3) It should pay homage to the source material and/or the original film.   …
review by . December 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Our Christmas movie this year was True Grit, which we saw in the late show Christmas night just before the first Christmas snow in Raleigh in 60 years shut down the town.  We followed that up with a viewing (my first!) of the 1969 original starring John Wayne and Glenn Campbell.      I recently read and reviewed Charles Portis's novel, which I rated +5 for Mattie Ross's spare language of guarded emotion that tells us more about her than pages of florid description …
review by . January 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Nothing in this world is free… except the grace of God.
With that, the movie begins.      Let me say this about movies. It is neither my lifeblood nor life passion. It is simply one form of entertainments for me. And since I moved to China a few years ago, I barely need to pay much for it. Believe me, very little, hehe...      So, I got my fair share of movies. Some good, some darn lousy. I don’t normally waste time writing the lousy ones. To me, they are not even worth a minute of my life writing about …
review by . January 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen Brothers are not usually known for doing purely genre films.  There's usually a semblance of several genres mixed together when they do a film.  To see them do a purely western is something of a curiosity.  After all, there are reasons why a western, of all genres, might turn heads.  In the first place, it has been years since a fantastic western actually showed up in theaters (perhaps the last truly good one was the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma), but more than that... …
review by . February 08, 2011
Our Christmas movie this year was True Grit, which we saw in the late show Christmas night just before the first Christmas snow in Raleigh in 60 years shut down the town.  We followed that up with a viewing (my first!) of the 1969 original starring John Wayne and Glenn Campbell.      I recently read and reviewed Charles Portis's novel, which I rated +5 for Mattie Ross's spare language of guarded emotion that tells us more about her than pages of florid description …
review by . December 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   If you had asked me a month, maybe even a couple of weeks ago what my favorite film of the year was going to be, without hesitation I would have said Christopher Nolan’s Inception. I knew that Tron Legacy and True Grit were coming up, and I had a feeling that the latter had a good chance of making my top ten or even my top five, but I had no idea it had this great of a chance. In fact, it might just be giving Inception a good run for its money. This is one of my favorites of …
review by . December 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   The Western genre is a perennial of American cinema. Sometimes very popular, sometimes just sort of “there”, but never going away. In recent years we’ve seen Westerns like Unforgiven and 3:10 to Yuma, both of which are great examples of what the genre can do when it’s being worked by someone who really knows what they’re doing. Now to this list we can add True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers. As with their other films, it’s not just a fine example …
review by . December 26, 2010
14-year-old Mattie Ross has come to Ft. Smith Arkansas sometime during the "old west" to hire a US Marshall to track and bring to justice the man who shot and killed her father. She hires the man she's been told has true grit, Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn, a one-eyed drunk with a ferocious reputation. They set out for the Indian Territories, accompanied, to their chagrin, by the dandified Texas Ranger LeBoeuf. Along the way, they encounter some strange characters and engage in dangerous and bloody adventures. &nbs …
review by . December 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen Brothers know their way around a film. That much has been established over the years. And after a few films that were not seen by too many, they return to the West, but this time around with the clock set back a few years.      True Grit is based of the 1968 novel of the same name. And while it shares its source material with the 1969 film that won John Wayne his only Oscar, it would be unfair to call this a remake. Lost is the tone of the previous film, it loses …
review by . June 09, 2011
Less than a year after the initial publication of Charles Portis' second and finest novel, the popular film adaptation of True Grit was released, marketed as another of far too many John Wayne vehicles. In spite of the film's success and enduring popularity, admirers of the harsh, blackly comic novel can easily recognize it as an insincere, sanitized crowd-pleaser. Wayne played tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn exactly as he would any other character, his performance as by-the-numbers …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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True Grit is an upcoming 2010 Western film, written and directed by the Coen brothers and starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon. The film is an adaptation of the 1968 novel by Charles Portis which was previously adapted for film in 1969. Filming began on March 2010 with an anticipated release date of December 25, 2010.
Bridges will play U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. The character was portrayed by John Wayne in the 1969 film, a performance which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl, undertakes a quest to avenge her father's death at the hands of a drifter named Tom Chaney. Ross persuades an alcoholic marshal named Rooster Cogburn to join her in tracking down Chaney.
Ethan Coen said that the film will be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the 1969 version.
“             It's partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humour in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character — the little girl — 25 years later when she's an adult. Another way in which it's a little bit different from the movie — and maybe this ...
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Western
Release Date: 22 December 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 110 min
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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"True Grit"
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