True Grit [8.8/10]

Year : 2010 | Genre : Adventure, Drama, Western
Directors : Ethan & Joel Coen
Writer : Ethan & Joel Coen (screenplay), Charles Portis (novel)
With: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld

There is nothing in the world of cinema that excites me more  than a good old fashioned western. Sadly, they’ve made only a handful of those in the last two decades. So I was waiting for this movie with more anticipation than a kid on Christmas Eve, though few children are as fond of Santa as I am of Ethan and Joel Coen – who I can safely say are among the best filmmakers of our time. “No Country for Old Men” was by far my favorite film of 2007 and apparently that “modern western” vibe to it was only training for the real thing, as the Coen brothers delivered not only a top five (at least) movie of this year, but also a true western – the best in I don’t even want to count how many years. 

For those who’ve seen the original True Grit from 1969 and have been dreading the remake, you can rest assured. This is one rare and fine example how you can take an amazing, wonderful film and remake it into an even better one. You heard me, as hard to believe as it may be. 

Jeff Bridges plays a different Rooster Cogburn than John Wayne did. Even though the character is the same happy-to-shoot-you, never-sober, eye-patched US Marshall that John Wayne brought to life in ’69, Bridges put a twist on it and made it his own. And if you allow me one more comparison, though Kim Darby was great in the original version, Hailee Steinfeld is far better as Mattie Rose. Considering that this time the action is a lot more focused on her, also that she had to play side by side with the likes of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, at only 13 years old Hailee Steinfeld held her own and shined, delivering a truly remarkable performance.

Mattie Rose is 14 years old, but there is not one sweet bone in her body. She has guts, stamina and determination; she will do what it takes and will stop at nothing until she gets what she’s after. She imposes herself from her very first appearance, when she bargains with a horse trader who’s probably four times her age. She feels that the man owed her father some money. At first, the horse trader looks at her as a joke and doesn't take her seriously. Big mistake. By the end of their argument she gets her money. And a horse. And the man feels lucky she’s not pressing charges. Anyone who is uninspired enough to underestimate Mattie will sure end up surprised – and possibly sorry.   

She is the true hero of the story. She is also the narrator. Her father was shot dead in cold blood by a man he only wanted to help.Tom Chaney is his name (played by Josh Brolin) and he fled the scene. Mattie is set to find her father’s killer and bring him to justice, and for that she hires the meanest and most ruthless tracker: the U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who is about as rough as he is drunk. But she’s not the only one who’s after Tom Chaney. A Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) has been hunting Chaney for months, he is wanted to be hanged in Texas for another crime, and there is a reward put out for his capture. And so Mattie, Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf ride off together in search for Chaney, though the two tough men were reluctant to accept a girl joining them in their hunt.  

The first part of the film is not as action-packed, which allows us to get to know the three characters and witness how their interactions change and develop. There is a just hint of romance between LaBoeuf and Mattie. Don’t worry. Absolutely nothing happens. It’s very subtle. But I liked that even if there is *something* there, it is neither exploited, nor frowned upon. As for Mattie and Rooster, they start off as two people having to tolerate each other for a common goal, and from here their relationship grows into a deep bond of friendship and loyalty. The alliance between LaBoeuf and Rooster evolves as well, while both men come to accept Mattie as their equal. 

With a superb cinematography that creates an authentic western atmosphere, with actors that embody their characters so realistically that it seems they forget they are acting, with gun-fights and man-hunts and horse-back ridings into the snow, “True Grit” is an absolute joy to watch.

The only thing I’ve missed from the original was Rooster Cogburn's explanation of how he shot Pepper through the upper lip when he was really aiming for his lower lip. I may re-watch the old version just for that.


My overall rating : 8.8 / 10

Rating per categories, 10 being maximum of points and 1 being minimum :

Directing : 9
Script : 8.5
Plot and Storyline : 8.5
Cinematography and visuals: 9
Characters and acting : 9


1asbak1 said...

Criss, i sort off mis your twitter updates ! i mean.. 4 days ago since your last tweet.. like OMG i am gonna die.. in boredom. btw.. thanks for the "house" recommendation about 3 months ago.. i am still adicted :)

nice review, just watched it. and as always. you opinion is just perfect !

greetzz thijs !

Anonymous said...

Your review has helped me a lot.I have a nice home theatre and use Netflix.I will for sure watch this movie based on your informative review.

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