Wednesday, 16 February 2011

True Grit (2010) - Review

Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Written by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Based on the novel - 'True Grit' by Charles Portis

Joel and Ethan Coen's 'True Grit' is not a remake of the 1969 Henry Hathaway film; it is an adaption based on the novel by Charles Portis. In an interview with Ethan Coen he stated that 95% of the dialogue spoken in the film is directly taken from the book, with 5% written by the Coen's in order to make the film 'work'.

The story of True Grit is based around the hunt for a man by the name of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who has murdered Mattie Ross' (Hailee Steinfeld) father. Fourteen year old farmgirl, Mattie, hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) the toughest US Marshal she kind find; whom she deems to have 'True Grit'. The two of them set out accompanied also by Texas Ranger 'LaBoeuf' (Matt Damon).

The original True Git starring John Wayne (in the role he won his only Oscar for) as Rooster Cogburn, is a pretty standard fare performance from Wayne. I am a John Wayne fan, but I don't think he was even close to the same league of acting as Jeff Bridges. But what Wayne lacked in acting skill, he made up for in screen presence; mostly due to his large frame. Jeff Bridges also has screen presence in bucket loads, but he's also a fantastic performer. I'd even go as far as saying that at times he perhaps lays it on a little too thick, not many could get away it, but Bridges certainly does.

As for the rest of the cast, each performance is note perfect, including an incredibly fearless and bold performance from debut actress Hailee Steinfeld (definite one to watch) and the ever dependable Josh Brolin; an actor whom I've always admired, especially his performance in 'American Gangster' and 'Planet Terror'. As for Matt Damon I've always thought of him as a great actor, especially when his career was starting to get going in the late 90's (Saving Private Ryan, Rounders, The Talented Mr Ripley) and then there seemed to be a clear dip in the quality of films he appeared in (with the odd exception such as the Bourne series). But over the last few years he seems to have established himself yet again as a great actor, and his performance in True Grit is no exception. 

As for the Coen Brothers' choice to 'do a genre film' it is a great change of pace. It doesn't necessarily feel like a Coen Brothers film, but there are enough subtle reminders throughout to let you know they're still in charge. I love the look of the film, at times it reminds me almost of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' in its desolate bleakness. True Grit certainly feels like a traditional western due to its fantastic pacing which flows steadily all the way through until the dramatic climax, which somehow seems to sneak upon you.


  1. Looking at that movie poster, I think it quite unfair that Hailee Steinfeld doesn't get a big font mention, being the character central to the plot and the film and all that (and even appearing in the poster!).
    I really enjoyed watching it though, it's a great little tale to follow.

  2. I agree, if anything it kind of makes the poster look a little unbalanced, if anyone could have been left off the poster, maybe it should have been Josh Brolin as he has hardly any screen time compared to the others.

  3. Not to be a year and a half late to the ball game, but I would like to proffer a rebuttal regarding the poster. The movie is actually quite rife with both symmetry and Christian subtext, two very common themes in Coen films.

    The four characters featured on the poster, with regard to the story, represent varying degrees of pronouncement of justice. Mattie is the most steadfast in her resolution, being that she abides and expects obedience to contract. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Chaney, who only abides by contract when it is to his convenience, and uses deception to stay one step ahead of the law. Mattie and Chaney are necessarily the conflict of ideals, driving the plot.

    On the other hand, Rooster and LaBoeuf are embodiments of the grey areas in the the spectrum of ordinance. Rooster obeys the contracts he makes, yet frequently breaks the law (as noted in the court scene) in order to keep his contract fulfilled. LaBoeuf, alternately, is strictly a man of the law, and does not cotton well to a more chaotic approach to hunting Chaney.

    So in this perspective, the poster is aligned to represent the two ideals, with Rooster and LaBoeuf acting as the sort-of path between the two. Had Mattie been featured on the front, it would have downplayed the very human struggle between LaBoeuf and Rooster, while leaving only a thinly veiled good versus evil motif.

    Sorry for the wall of text; I could go on for hours about this movie :)