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Movie Review – True Grit
With True Grit the Coen Brotehrs’ play to a genre for the first time in their long and exemplary career but when it’s the Coens, even the straight and simple Western undergoes a transformation.
14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has lost her father and the law of the land is too lazy and too busy to chase the killer Ton Chaney (Josh Brolin) who has taken off. Mattie settles her father’s business deals, arranges for his funeral but won’t return home till Chaney meets justice and so she decides to hire the services of US Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) simply because he’s the most ruthless one out there.
She approaches him but Rooster shrugs the teenager off. While she tries to convince Rooster she is propositioned by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) to team up as he’s on Chaney’s trail as well. She refuses LaBoeuf’s offer but much to her dismay the two men take off without telling her and decide to split the reward. Rooster’s only keen in catching Chaney and doesn’t care where he’s tried but Mattie won’t have it any other way and tells the men that she will kill Chaney once they catch him. Following a disagreement LaBoeuf goes his own way and Mattie finally comes face to face with her father’s murderer. She looks over her shoulder for Rooster but a hung-over Rooster is no match for Chaney who along with Lucky Ned (Barry Pepper) takes Mattie hostage. Would Rooster the man they say with true grit manage to keep his word given to a 14-year-old who trusted him?
Rather than keeping things black and white as most classic westerns end up doing, the Coen Brothers keep their version of True Grit very true to the book and very real. At the core True Grit wouldn’t have worked as wonderfully as it does had it not been for Hailee Steinfeld’s very credible performance. She brings a certain sense of audacity to Mattie Ross which makes you want to root for her.
The original True Grit might be recalled largely for John Wayne’s histrionics but Jeff Bridges comes up with a towering interpretation of his own. There are places where one can’t understand just what the hell Rooster’s saying thanks to the crazy southern drawl Bridges has but the nonchalance with which he portrays the larger than life Cogburn makes it difficult to not like him.
Matt Damon’s restrained LaBoeuf is the weakest performance of the lot and let’s just say your fears of it being difficult to imagine Damon play a western character were not entirely incorrect. Josh Brolin as the fugitive Tom Chaney has a mesmerizing effect and so does Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned.
Any Coen Brothers’ films is nothing short of great cinema in the truest sense of the word but True Grit is a visual treat that ends up being an experience of a lifetime. Roger Deakins’ superior cinematography has made many a Coen Brothers’ film come alive but True Grit is Deakins’ shinning hour. Just like the brothers take storytelling to a level only a few can even dream of, one frame of Roger Deakins is usually worth a million words and you have to see True Grit to know what the visual medium is capable of.
Much like No Country For Old Men, True Grit burns on a slow fire. While No Country For Old Men hits you like a bullet very early on, True Grit takes it own sweet time in working its way on your mind. The film isn’t the western that you have gotten used to; not at all. With the Coens even the phonebook can changes into something magical. For most of its time you don’t even notice the manner in which True Grit sucks you in; you happily tag along and might lose interest as well at places but suddenly there comes a point where the drama that is unfolding in front of you sucks you into its world and there’s no coming back then.
The last 20 minutes of True Grit is where everything comes together in a manner you least expect. The film might not work for some viewers for it’s not fireworks in the conventional sense of the word but watch it nevertheless and get enthralled.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper
Written by: Joel and Ethan Coen based on the book True Grit by Charles Portis
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
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