DVD | Blu-Ray
Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Based on True Grit by Charles Portis
Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper
Originally Released: December 22, 2010
The 2010 adaptation of True Grit by the Coen Brothers is a masterwork of modern filmmaking that handles the original source material with reverence and justice. Accompanied by a cast that collectively puts in stellar and memorable performances, and coupled with some breathtaking camerawork, True Grit is a must-see film.
Set at some point after the American Civil War and facing the turn of the century, the movie follows protagonist Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield), a 14-year old girl who is both educated and steadfast beyond her years. Following an incident in which her father was murdered by a brigand named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie, being the most forward-thinking of the remaining family members, takes it upon herself to address her father’s final businesses including his funeral â€“ and her quest for both retribution and justice.
Acquiring the skills of US Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), and accompanied by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), the unlikely trio make their way into Indian Country into which it is believed Chaney has absconded to join up with a gang run by “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper). Through their journey, the trio endure a period of separation, and also go through their own baptismal journey of trials on their quest for justice.
The Coen Brothers have achieved much with True Grit. Their direction of the movie has essentially created one of the most memorable ensembles of cast members, that not only have successfully delivered convincing and touching performances, but ascertained a level of interaction and chemistry between them that comes across as not only believable but also endearing in some ways.
Their pacing of both the script and the progression of the film is clearly meticulous, resulting in a compelling display that keeps your eyes on the movie at all times. There are no lull points, nor any overly unneeded displays of drawn out elucidation; the creative teamwork between the Coens, the production crew, and the phenomenal cast focus purely on the major necessary elements of the plot â€“ doing justice to the original novel, while also tipping the hat to the lasting 1969 film adaptation.
There are no individual stand-out performances in True Grit â€“ ALL of the major cast members have put forth their best feet in this movie, developing a meaningful rapport between each of the characters. This is a rarity in modern filmmaking.
Hailee Steinfield is unquestionably phenomenal in her motion picture debut, successfully capturing the spirit of young Mattie Ross and being able to convince the audience of Ross’ unique intelligence and forwardness. The character is a strong young woman at age 14, and Steinfield on no account left me unbelieving of this. She has quite an incredible career ahead of her, and her debut efforts are one among many reasons for watching True Grit.
Jeff Bridges is, as always, the consummate Jeff Bridges. Being one of the few actors who can quite literally disappear onscreen and become his character, Bridges is essentially replaced in this film by Rooster.
You do not look at him and ponder, “Wow, he is doing a good John Wayne”. You do not look at him and think at any stage that this is the man who played Flynn or The Dude. You look at him and are convinced through and through, balls to bones, that it is the genuine Rooster Cogburn in front of you.
Both Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also put in first-rate performances, worthy of comment and praise. Along with Barry Pepper’s smaller appearance, these three actors have yet to put in a poor performance on film that I have seen (even Damon tried his best in the less-than-stellar Adjustment Bureau); but accompanying the rest of the cast, all put in an astonishing effort to assist in creating a fantastic movie.
The art of the film is, in and of itself, quite amazing as well. The cinematography is humbling, with deliberate care being taken to establish numerous shots that either hearken back to memorable long-shot moments in classic Westerns, or attempt to create a unique look at the surrounding setting to help raise the ambience of the story.
The music of True Grit is also worth citing. It quickly becomes a strong element of the movie that after viewing it, you cannot imagine it without the tone of the score. Carter Burwell, who has worked with the Coen Brothers frequently, has created an encompassed musical composition that weaves itself into the identity of the movie. The resulting accomplishment is comparable to the inseparability that John Williams succeeded with the iconic scores for Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and so forth. Burwell’s results are a momentous component of the film, and I dare you to imagine watching this movie without his score.
There is a nuance throughout the movie that does remind me of the Coen’s efforts with No Country For Old Men. Perhaps it is the ongoing “matter-of-fact” atmosphere that is provided by the characters. There is one clear parallel I detected. In No Country For Old Men, the three major characters never appear in the same shot once together. In True Grit, the same could be said of Bridges’ Rooster and Brolin’s Chaney â€“ while both do appear in a major scene together, each actor is NEVER in the same shot once, and I cannot help but think this is deliberate and intentional on the part of the Coen Brothers. It could be an underlining of the major differences along the continuum of the two characters and their motivations. Then again, it could also just be because the idea of shooting it in that manner is just too damn cool.
Although the previous 1969 adaptation and the novel upon which both films are based are regarded as sacred and legendary American works, the 2010 True Grit is a fine addition to the reverent work. I imagine that while the Coen’s wanted to do justice to the original novel, they also had hopes it would point a new generation of younger movie viewers into aspiring to read the book. Coupled with the careful and meticulous manner in which they have completed this film, and in addition to the beyond-stellar performances of the amazing cast, the result makes True Grit one of the finest movies made and very much worth your time.
True Grit is an outstanding and vivid film.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5