Saturday, December 25, 2010


Still from True Grit
It really did not need to be made, but The Coen Brothers have re-interpreted 1969 Western True Grit. This remake though, more closely follows Charles Portis' Novel than its predecessor zoning-in on its 14 year-old Heroine Mattie Ross, played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Mattie is out to avenge the murder of her Father by a Traitor named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).

Left with none more than $320 and a Family to care for, the Girl hires the help of tough-talking, sharp-shooting Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help capture her Father's Murderer. Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) as it turns out, also is in pursuit of Tom Chaney. Despite having a bit of a challenge in persuading these two Men to aid in her cause, she manages to convince them and together they find themselves trekking through Arkansas in a dangerous guns-out fight for justice. Will Mattie be able to avenge the death of her Father or will she, Laboeuf and Rooster suffer a similar fate?

I'll admit that I am not a fan of Westerns and in a year where there have been many strong, original stories on-screen, it's easy for a Film like True Grit to be forgotten.  Everything about this Film though, feels authentic.  The Screenplay is brilliant and despite little back story being given, we somehow are left wanting to unravel the missing pieces to the murder of Mattie's Father and also understand Chaney's justification.  Chalk full of humorous and memorable one-liners, like Rooster describing Mattie's straight talking ways: "You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements", The Coen Brothers delve that one layer deeper into the Psyche. Never do they underestimate the intelligence of their audience.

Particularly engaging is Steinfeld in one of the finest breakout performances in recent memory.  The level of conviction she delivers here is breathtaking - of a maturity many years beyond her youth.  She nails the physicality and emotionality required of her role effortlessly.

For me to praise Bridges and Damon on their fine work is moot point really, as their shining moments by far outnumber their lackluster ones.  They deliver committed performances here and we should never expect less of them.  Their competitive chemistry comes out in full-force in one humorous scene which has LaBoeuf challenging Rooster's ability to shoot a gun precisely.

Although I'm hard-pressed to place True Grit among my Year's Best, it is nonetheless a fine exercise in Storytelling.  It is now in theatres everywhere in North America via Paramount Pictures.  Grade: A-

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