Review: True Grit (2011)

“I thought you gonna say the sun was in your eyes. That is to say, your Eye!”

True Grit is an American Western film and is the latest offering from The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men, Fargo, The Big Lebowski). The film stars Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, Tron, The Big Lebowski), Matt Damon (Invictus, Oceans 11, The Bourne Ultimatum), Josh Brolin (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Milk, No Country For Old Men), Barry Pepper (Casino Jack, We Were Soldiers, Saving Private Ryan) and introducing Hailee Steinfield in her debut role.

The film is based on the 1968 novel of the same name by Charles Portis. It’s also the second film adaptation that was also called True Grit (1969) which starred John Wayne.

Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield) sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with “true grit,” Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her “grit” tested. 

Let’s start off with Jeff Bridges. His character is not too dissimilar to the one he played in Crazy Heart – which won him the Oscar back in 2009. The only difference is that there seems to be more alcohol units. This shows in Bridges portrayal of Cogburn as you try to understand his incoherent ramblings as a merciless U.S Marshall. But he does this very well and seems to be his speciality. Rooster Cogburn is a great American character in the sense of a flawed hero, a person who is imperfectly perfect and Jeff Bridges really hits the nail on the head with his performance of him.

Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger. Matt Damon has been busy, withTrue Grit being one out of three films being released within a few months of each other. But I think this defiantly the better of the three. Damon in my mind has become quite a solid, dependable actor and is the perfect coil for Bridge’s Cogburn. He’s performance is understated yet brilliant as the Texas Ranger and it was good to watch.

Hailee Steinfield plays Mattie Ross and she is wonderful and simply breathtaking. In my mind she stole the film and outshone her fellow actors. It’s almost hard to believe that this is her debut film because she really holds her own against regular journeyman Bridges and Damon. She will become a leading star in the not too distant future, will she make a better film though? Be hard pushed I reckon. But honestly she is a joy to watch on screen.

Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper finish up the supporting cast. They both play great menacing villains. Brolin just looks the part and Pepper has more of a commanding crazy killer about him. Criticism however is that there not in the film long enough which I was surprised about and disappointed in slightly. Saying this there performances were perfect.

Now lets get onto the Coen’s themselves. What they’ve done is create a fantastic film – which is to expected from them. The cinematography is beautiful and has the Coen-esque feel to it which is there speciality, along with music. The score of the film is also great and another element which the Coen’s thrive themselves in. True Grit certainly goes down in one of the best films made by them.

Now the Coen Brothers have said this not a remake but a re-imagination of the book. I can’t comment too much as I’ve not read the book and have only seen bits of John Wayne’s version. But overall I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The script was witty, clever and often funny – which one of the surprises of the film is the humour. The acting is fantastic and the whole feel of the film is brilliant. This is a must see film. I’m giving it a comfortable 5/5.


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