TRUE GRIT

TRUE GRIT

By Gary Murray

Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld)

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Running time 110 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE

The original True Grit is in my top ten of movie Westerns. The tale of revenge won John Wayne his much deserved and long overdue Academy Award. When I heard that the Coen Brothers were re-making the film, I thought it would be a perfect match. The two film-makers have been giving the audience interesting and challenging works since Blood Simple. With True Grit, they do not disappoint.

The story is of a young girl Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) who wants to avenge the death of her father. She travels to the city to retrieve the body and find a man to bring the killer to justice. There are a bunch of different men who could do the job, but something about the rough exterior of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) makes her take notice. When we first see him, he is testifying in a trial, using that tough as leather persona to extract true justice.

She also meets a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) who also wants the killer. The Ranger wants to bring the savage killer (little used Josh Brolin) to justice in Waco. Mattie wants him hanged in her beloved Arkansas. So the two men and the young woman make a trek into Indian country to find the bad man. The bonding between the three as they hunt down all the bad guys is the basic story of True Grit.

The Coens make a true Western and not one of the revisionist tales of late. The film has a classic feel like the greatest flicks of John Ford and at the same time leans toward the basic style that Sam Peckinpah was known for. Even though the directing duo is known for fancy camera tricks and unusual angles, here they stick to straightforward film making, with little flourish. They end-up with a product that is a solid entertainment, with the grit and grime needed.

If Jeff Bridges had not won the Oscar already, this would be the best shot of his career. His Rooster Cogburn is all rough and tumble on the outside but with a strong moral streak that drives him He's not a perfect man but he is a righteous one. This is yet another memorable role in a memorable career.

Matt Damon under-plays his beats but that stoic lone ranger character is what is needed for the role. With subtle gestures he speaks volumes and his measured timbre is just the balance needed against Bridges' tough characterization.

The biggest find is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie. She is a cracker jack reader of lines, putting a needed sizzle in the proceedings. She is neither the total innocent nor the hardened farm girl. The reading she gives to the character is of a young woman at all the crossroads of life without any clear direction of where to go. This is a solid Oscar performance.

The film is much more Clint Eastwood than Roy Rogers. It is brutal, lonely and dark–more a tale of real men than an adventure story. It gives one everything needed to deliver a perfect Western flick. True Grit is a must-see film and one of the best of 2010.

 

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