TRUE GRIT Review

Without having seen the original 'True Grit' I prepared myself for this remake with no thoughts of a prior film, I looked at it with the eagerness I usually do any new Coen brothers film and I believed (and still do) they had no intention of making a film that was purely based on an older one. Not knowing how the Coens version differs or what it builds upon and takes away I cannot say it is a better film and I cannot compare Jeff Bridges to John Wayne.

What I can say though is that this is a damn solid film. Expecting nothing less from the brothers Coen, this 'True Grit' is an exercise in genre filmmaking for the directors. They have adapted the screenplay into a traditional western saga. The film telling the simple story of a man on the run and the determined young lady and U.S. Marshal out to capture him. The Coens not only take cues from westerns of the past but push them, force them to create a beautiful film that is compelling despite the predictable plot.

I cannot complain of the familiar plot for the story of it all is made very compelling by the two lead actors. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn is a surly, drunken Marshal whom young Mattie Ross asks to help her acquire the man who killed her father. As Mattie, Hailee Steinfeld is a quick tongue and a sharp mind of what is fair and what is not, what is just and what is wrong. She knows the ins and outs of what she is capable of and she uses her knowledge to its full extent. At points it can be rather annoying, her nagging the marshal and Texas Ranger LaBouef to do only as she asks with no concern for other factors that complicate the situation. Steinfeld is relentless though and she plays the determined and unflinching Mattie with such vigor it is impossible to tear your eyes from hers. Bridges on the other hand gives just the right amount of his drunken persona to make you doubt he may turn out to be the hero that Mattie needs him to be. Throughout we want to believe Cogburn will come through for Mattie, but we never really trust him. In fact, between he and LaBouef we are put in the position of concern for Mattie and that her one desire to see her fathers killer put to death may not pan out, that it could in fact cause only more harm to Mattie.

As Labouef, Matt Damon is is completely mesmerizing and deserves a supporting actor nom. The Texas ranger he portrays is an odd character, one who fits the awkward Coen tone perfectly. Damon delivers his lines with a slow drawl that exudes ease. Even after his tongue is nearly bitten through and he speaks with a lisp, he never wavers from vocal tone that tells you exactly who this man is and what he thinks of himself. As with Cogburn he draws a fine line between ally and foe. Throughout the films the roles seem to almost alternate and allow us that almost non-existent pleasure in films of getting to know characters for more than just the person they are in the moment in time that the film is documenting. There isn't necessarily growth within these supporting male roles, but there is development, and as Mattie learns who she can trust and what needs to be done, so do we. At the focus of the hunt Josh Brolin supplies a small role that feels as vital to the story as it is supposed to simply because he is playing him. Had it been a no name actor we might not have felt such angst in catching up with Mr. Chaney, but in the hands of Brolin he gives the role just the right amount of weight that we feel the anger Mattie has towards him.

Though I only slightly mentioned it earlier, the trademark Coen tone seeps through into the somewhat nostalgic material. The odd editing, the random bits of humor, the sly sarcastic wit of each character. It is all there and though the environment seems almost in conflict with that time of persona and tone, it only seems to enhance the idea of this genre western being taken to a different kind of level than we have been treated to before. With the beautiful landscapes, the Arkansas references and the subtle musical score that moves the somewhat slow paced film along at a good speed it is hard to catch the greatness of it all. We watch as a young girl struggles to accomplish what will only bring balance to her world and though as we are shown in an epilogue type segment that this meeting between herself and Rooster was only a small section of her life it did indeed affect her greatly. This film affected me greatly. It is not a revolutionary story and it doesn't present some new way of thinking, but it does feel profound, and in that the film is a complete success.