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True Grit

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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Indeed The Film Has Plenty of Grit

  • Jan 24, 2011
Rating:
+5
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... the conventional wisdom is that western just no longer appeal to viewers like they used to... most westerns released since the days following the film Unforgiven have had pitiful grosses and have quickly been forgotten.

True Grit actually changes that mold entirely.  Not only has the film become a huge box office success, but it is perhaps one of the best you could find in 2010.  It's a marvelous film filled with great performances, great writing, impeccable timing in some of its comedic moments and, most of all, it has a fantastic story that is simple to follow but has complex and unique characters.  For the typical Coen Brothers fan, this is actually probably a very different experience.  In the past the brothers have made odd comedies that are about... well... nothing in particular (Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading, The Big Lebowski) and on the other hand they've done their hand at making complex dramas that, for the most part have a love/hate relationship with audiences (Fargo, No Country For Old Men).  True Grit doesn't really fall into any category in particular.  It's a drama, but nothing of the complexity that No Country for Old Men provides.  There's not deep symbolism here.  There's no one who will leave the theater unsure of what they saw when True Grit is over.  It's pure storytelling from start to finish.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross.  Her father was recently murdered by a man named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).  Tom Chaney has taken off and she decides that she'll have to find him.  Not only did Tom Chaney murder her father, but he also robbed him.  Mattie can't do it on her own, however.  She enlist the help of Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) because word around town is that he has "True Grit," and it shows.  The man may only have one eye, but when we're introduced to him we learn he's a hardened man who knows little remorse for the scum of the underworld.  When being pressed about his matters a lawyer asks him, "How many men have you shot?"  To which Rooster replies, "Shot?  Or killed?"  The lawyer reasons that it would be a lot easier if he told people the number he's killed.  Rooster Cogburn is an old man who may be trigger happy, but he's just the kind of guy that Mattie is looking for.  When Rooster does not agree at first, Mattie meets a ranger from Texas named Lebeouf (played by Matt Damon) who has been chasing Chaney and his gang for some time after they killed a state senator.  Mattie cares not for what Chaney has done to the state of Texas, she only cares about avenging her father and she wants to have her way on that.  She refuses the rangers help if it means that the ranger will be punished in Texas.

She may not have a choice, however.  When Cogburn finally decides to help her he enlist the help of the ranger... but has no intention of taking Mattie with him.  Mattie shows that she herself has grit by catching up to Cogburn and forcing herself to come along for the ride.  She ultimately does and from there the movie starts its pursuit to catch Chaney.

True Grit gets off to a fairly slow start because we need to watch as Mattie prepares.  Getting money to pay Cogburn, for example, as well as finding him.  But once the pursuit for Chaney really begins the movie picks up.  What helps True Grit out, besides it's straight-shot storytelling, is how well crafted and executed the screenplay is, and how fantastic the set designs are.  Together we feel as though we've been taken to another world.  Every character talks with a wild west southern accent, for example.  And the dialog is fantastic.  The moments that lack action are held together by moments where characters are having good discussion.  There is even a comedic touch thrown in there where characters take short pauses before delivering certain lines.  Jeff Bridges in particular, is a great treat on screen.  That's not to say the other actors are bad, it is only to say that Jeff Bridges stands out as being the most memorable of the entire cast.  He not only has some of the funniest moments, but he's also the most absorbing character.  Matt Damon is also a treat (although you won't see him as much) and so is Mattie Steinfeld.  In reality, the movie works so well because of the performances involved and because of some fantastic writing.

But the Art Direction also bears mentioning.  As I said before, the Coen Brothers don't usually do pure genre films.  Here the Art Direction lets you know instantly that you're watching a western.  The town which it takes place in looks like it was ripped straight out of the late 1800's.  You'll see some excellent costumes as well.  People wearing cowboy hats every which way and dressing in garb you'd be accustomed to seeing in a typical western.  And beyond that you'll get gun fights, horseback riding, chases, people being dragged and even a shot of a character riding a horse across the plains and into the sunset.  Even the music sounds purely western and it all makes True Grit appealing.  As we watch we realize we're being absorbed into this world.  Of all of the films the Coen Brothers have made, True Grit may be the best because it's one of the few they've done that's actually accessible to everybody.  You don't have to be a fan of the Coen Brothers to enjoy it and there's nothing here that might distance the film from audiences.

That's not to say it'll be for everyone (what movie is?) it is only to say that you might not see so many discussion of, "I just didn't get," or "That's it?"  Nearly everything about True Grit really shines.  From the opening monologue to the films intense climax and ultimately to the film's ending, It's a fantastic ride.

What is most surprising and actually probably the best part about True Grit is how dramatic it is.  The trailers more or less give you the entire plot (hell the openinig monologue will spill the entire plot) but at least the trailers didn't all out lie about just what the film is.  It is a suspenseful romp, but it's not as action packed as you might think.  It isn't until the second half that there is a lot of action.  It's an extremely story driven and plot driven film that relies much more heavily on its characters than its gun toting action.  The gun fights are fun, but the most fun comes more from the exchanges between the characters and the confidence of the action.  Simply put, if True Grit lacked any action the drama would still be enough to carry the entire film through. 

The other part that is nice actually is the suspense.  There are some moments that you don't see coming while others will really blow you away.  Just when you're certain you know what will happen next, you might find yourself surprised. 

True Grit doesn't reinvent the wheel.  In fact it relies mostly on techniques that have worked in film and westerns in the past.  It's got some real heart pounding moments and some truly emotional ones.  But one thing you won't find with True Grit is innovation.  What you will find is a truly engrossing film however. While it doesn't reinvent the wheel it uses the tools at its feet to build something that truly works and truly shines.  The brilliance with True Grit is that it is a film that combines so many different elements together and makes it work. 

For those wondering how it compares to the book, it stacks up rather well.  It helps that much of the narration is taken directly from the novel.  There are some things that stayed in the novel and remain there, but the point is that even as an adaptation, True Grit isn't so bad at all.

It's worth going to see.  For those who think the western is dead, True Grit might change your mind.  When film has a lot of tools and they don't all come together you usually get a big mess.  But when you see a film where the film makers used the tools competently and responsibly the result is a film like True Grit.  Indeed, the film has plenty of grit.

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January 26, 2011
Solid review. You know how much I liked this one over the 1969 film, (if you've seen my review) this was just gritty and the darkness was restrained enough to keep the premise grounded. The last westerns I've seen the past three years were 3:10 to Yuma remake, Appaloosa and the Korean Western The Good The Bad The Weird...it isn't a mainstream genre these days but when there is one, it always turns out to be awesome. Thanks!
 
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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 . 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 …
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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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