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True Grit

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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So Much To Love, If You're A Cinematic Prodigal, It'll Make You Love Movies Again...

  • Dec 27, 2010
Rating:
+5

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 the year, and with a flawless script, unrivaled performances, cinematography beyond compare, and unsurpassable action to boot, it’s what I and many others might call a perfect film. The film takes place shortly after the Civil War in the Mid-West, where Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl out for revenge for her father’s murder by the coward John Chaney (Josh Brolin), enters a dangerous world of murder and betrayal in order to avenge his death. She enlists the help of Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a frequently inebriated and trigger-happy marshal, and local Texas Ranger Labeouf (Matt Damon) who is out to bring Chaney in dead or alive for his own reward. Few films are blessed with casts like True Grit is given to work with here. A lot of Oscar buzz is going around about newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and it’s well deserved. The best part of her performance isn’t just how she reads her lines or how she could very well be the best cinematic role model for pre-teen girls in the past decade, but just how she fearlessly takes on Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, two acting legends, throughout the movie. Steinfeld plays the part to perfection, reading each line in such a fluent way it seems like she was born to do it, and excellently complimenting the Coens second to none interchange. Made all the more amazing by the fact she’s a first-timer, anything less than an Oscar nomination would be a disgrace. Steinfeld’s performance on its own would make the film, but she’s accompanied by a surplus of awesome performances. Matt Damon does a grand job at playing the part of Labeouf and carries some of the movie’s best comedic moments, and Josh Brolin (with what screen time he’s given) gives the role of John Chaney all he’s got, infusing humor and an often times darker, scarier, quick-to-violence side to his character. Barry Pepper, who’s been known for smaller parts like in The Green Mile, is 100% unrecognizable as Ned Pepper, the disfigured leader of Chaney’s gang. This best way I can describe the guy is the film’s Darth Sidious. He’s literally behind every evil deed of the film. From the first moment he steps on screen the combo of the actor’s demeanor and the script lets evil ooze out of each of his pores. Even in his first few seconds of screen time when you’re not quite sure who he is or what he’s up to, you know he’s the embodiment of evil, and you’re just wishing for him to get on the wrong end of Rooster Cogburn’s six shooter. Speaking of the one-eyed marshal, Jeff Bridges’ performance for the film was the main draw to bring me into the film, and it’s the acting glue that not only holds the film together but also puts it over the top. Jeff Bridges brings so much experience to the part to give Rooster Cogburn a 100% genuine feel. There’s not a second that you doubt anything that comes out of Cogburn’s mouth. His at-times incomprehensible drawl did cause me to miss a few things that he said, but he carries so much of the film’s action and drama on his shoulders so perfectly, it’s impossible for me to explain how brilliant his performance is. There are also a number of smaller roles thrown in seemingly just for fun by the Coens. Even though they’re 3-5 minutes (at most) at a time, it’s almost like a time trial to see how rich of a character they can create.There are films that I can enjoy based off how technically proficient the film is or how well the films works as a comedy or an action film. It’s rare that a film works perfectly as both like True Grit. Back during the development of the film the Coens encouraged the cast to not watch the original John Wayne film, and having seen small pieces of the original, it obviously benefits the movie, as it’s almost an entirely different feature. The script is one of the main things about the film that really sets it apart. Just hearing Rooster Cogburn and Lucky Ned or Labeouf and Ross exchange dialogue is one of the film’s most entertaining aspects by a long shot. The Coens wrote the film in such an engaging and beautiful way it’s almost Shakespearean. The old-timey dialogue gives you such an indication of the world that they live in, something incredibly rare to see in a film. Just like in the Coens’ modern classic No Country for Old Men, my favorite film from 2007 and a Best Picture winner, it has that true Coens vibe, deftly mixing wit, surprising humor, and at the same time each and every line benefiting the story in some way. Each conversation, with a couple special scenes in particular like the “pony deal” at the beginning of the film, can be as exciting and genuine as 3/4 of this past summer’s biggest action scenes. I love this script so much I want to read it to my kids as a bedtime story. Complimented by the first-rate script, the film’s pacing is considerably adept. The movie starts a little slow, but after the first 20 minutes takes off with each scene either ending in an instantaneous gunshot or some capacious discovery. The film also looks exceptional. Each and every one of the scenes has either a pain-staking level of detail in it or looks as if there was no better location for the shot. The towns, the cabins, not to mention the costumes of the characters, all have a remarkable look and feel to them. Although it sounds minor, there are also a few camera angles and neat ways that the Coens frame a shot that’s definitely unexpected. There’s one shot that’s seen briefly in the trailer in a snowy wood that’s one of, if not the most impressive shots of the year. As if the script and cinematography that dances on the border of perfect wasn’t enough, the movie also works on an astounding level as a hardcore action film. Westerns sort of catch a bad name, as most of the time you either do it really well or no one will remember it ever existed. Plus, it’s pretty darn hard for one to make any money at the box office, thus discouraging studios from making them. 3:10 to Yuma and the previously mentioned No Country for Old Men are two Westerns from the past decade that set a standard for greatness. Much like how the Coens shot their action in No Country for Old Men, True Grit has some out of this world moments of action. Like No Country, there are a few moments of action you don’t see coming, shocking you by how quick it starts and just how quick it’s over. These are some of the film’s most terrifying moments mainly involving Rooster’s itchy trigger finger, and it’s hard to shake. The other moments where the film utilizes suspense work entirely, rest assured you’ll be on the edge of your seat. At its heart though, True Grit’s a Western through and through, and it’s never afraid to show off its guns, literally. Unlike a lot of other films each time a bullet leaves the chamber it really means something, and each action set piece is meticulously constructed and gloriously executed. There’s one massive shootout at the end that, without me spoiling it, puts one main character’s life in danger many times, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout hoping they were ok. Obviously based on my reaction you can tell it’s easy to get attached to the characters thanks to the superb writing and time taken to build each of the three main characters, along with the film’s message as to what it really means to have “true grit”. It’s also surprising how funny this movie is. While by no means would I call the film a comedy, a lot of the scenes including Rooster Cogburn’s drawl and inherent racism, how he interacts with others including Labeouf, and Mattie Ross’ boldness with the most frank of adults is hilarious. As I start to close here, I can only hope this film finds a huge audience. As I’m writing this, reports have already come in for its Christmas weekend haul, and it’s definitely been a successful weekend pull, practically making its budget back in 5 days. While the film is a little mis-marketed (it’s not as much of a fast-paced action film as the trailers make it out to be), it’s still a unbelievably great movie deserving of your support. The Coen Brothers’ True Grit is a very special kind of movie. It’s not often you get to see a film that perfects the writing, cinematography, and action that blend so well with this genre, only making it better. I honestly couldn’t imagine True Grit being any better than the final product we were given, and I can’t wait to check it out again. Just when you think the film’s done enough, the Coens keep pulling back curtains. There’s always another inspiring piece of dialogue, another dramatic moment that makes you think, or a 1 vs. 4 shootout that’ll make you want to rise to your feet. True Grit is in part a comedy, in part a Western, in part a drama, in part a revenge story, but in all parts it’s one heck of a perfect film. There’s just so much to love here, and if you’re a cinematic prodigal, True Grit might just make you love movies again.

5 out of 5

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December 27, 2010
good write up! I agree that the film appears a little mis-marketed most especially that the ads and the trailers may give the impression that Brolin has more screentime than he actually does. I liked this movie a lot.
December 27, 2010
by the way, it may make your review much easier to read and look more enticing for potential readers if you break it down using some separation through paragraphs. I know the site format sometimes make the review lose the paragraphs after you type-copy-paste them, so if you need any help message me or you can contact commmunity managers @devora or @djevoke for tips on transferring your reviews.
 
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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 . February 08, 2011
True Grit is an excellent film. This movie reminds of how entertaining westerns can be. It is about a young girl's deternination for justice after her father is shot and killed by a man named Tom Chaney. The film stars new comer Haliey Steinfield as Mattie Ross and Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. My favorite quote from the movie is when Mattie says to Rooster that she is looking for someone with true grit in helping her track her father's killer and avenge his death. True Grit is a phrase that …
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 . February 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***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 …
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 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 …
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Jake Wilbanks ()
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   My name's Jake, I write film reviews and the occasional music/video game/comic/tech review. I've been involved in journalism over the past 3 years, and am currently majoring in Journalism … 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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Details

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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