Tuesday, March 15, 2011

True Grit

Year: 2010
Directors: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper

Finally, I have found a Coen brothers film that I can actually understand.

It's not that I hated No Country For Old Men, but for me, it had one of the weakest endings ever. And then there was Burn After Reading, which I couldn't take anything away from, except Brad Pitt's hilarious performance. I hadn't watched their earlier films, so I really wasn't a fan of theirs. But True Grit seemed good on paper, and it's been a while since I saw a western, so I had to see this.

True Grit begins with 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) getting her recently murdered father's body being delivered back home. Mattie's father was killed by a small time crook called Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and Mattie wants to find him so that justice may be served.

To facilitate this, she hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a US Marshal who's slightly drunk, old and not to mention cranky, but someone who is tough and resilient enough to get the job done. Hiring Cogburn took a bit of effort, but eventually the old man agrees, even though he dislikes the idea of Mattie coming along for the hunt. They are joined by LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), a Texas ranger who has a bounty on Chaney for a murder in Texas.

Cogburn and LaBoeuf constantly get into arguments because of their pride, and at many instances, it almost seems Mattie will never get the justice she seeks. That is until, she stumbles on Chaney along the way, and the true grit of the two men and Mattie are put to the test.

This film is actually a remake of the 1969 film starring John Wayne, which won Wayne his only acting Oscar. But now as you already know, it didn't do the same for Bridges. However, that's not to say that he didn't do a great job. Bridges has tremendous screen presence, and what's best about playing Rooster Cogburn is the fact that the Coens' script gives plenty of room for Bridges to exercise some comedy chops, which augments his performance as the drunk but determined lawman. Damon successfully supports Bridges as LaBoeuf, who initially seems like someone who doesn't walk the walk, but redeems himself in the end.

But the best thing about True Grit is 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, who puts in an awesome performance as the spunky Mattie Ross. She gives Mattie the much needed charm and streetwise attitude required to stand up to the two men she follows on the hunt for Chaney. Her Oscar nomination is truly deserved. Brolin is severely underused as Chaney, and is somewhat outshined by Barry Pepper, who is almost unrecognisable as Lucky Ned Pepper, Chaney's gang leader.

I have to give credit to the Coens for finally coming up with a film that is not only NOT boring and overstaying its welcome, but also one that is truly entertaining. The western genre is hard to create a hit film from, because if not done right, it can turn out to be quite dull and uneventful. True Grit garnered 10 Oscar nominations, but unfortunately took home none. I think it ought to have won a few, instead of letting films like Inception and The King's Speech take one or two that they didn't quite deserve. But that's just me.

My verdict is, you should watch True Grit, even if you're not a fan of westerns. (4/5)

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