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True Grit Review

Joseph’s Rating: 6.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.3/10
(3 reviews total)

I like to think that I can review True Grit objectively; my love of the original film and my love of the Coen Brothers ought to create a fair and balanced look at their new movie. I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Maddie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is not your average 14-year-old. She argues with the best of ‘em and displays a self-confidence not typically displayed in someone that age. When Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin) murders her father in a drunken fit, she takes it upon herself to bring him to justice. Inquiry at the local sheriff reveals that Cheney is now in Choctaw Territory, and the business of the Federal Marshal. 

“Who’s the best marshal?” she queries. The man rattles off a list of law men and their individual strengths. This guy’s the best tracker, that guy’s the straightest (he tends to bring in his fugitives alive), and one Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). His specialty is that he’s the meanest. 

“Where can I find this Rooster?”


As it turns out, she finds him taking a dump. It takes some finagling, but soon she convinces him to accept her proposition and pursue Cheney. They join forces with Texas Ranger La Beouf (Matt Damon) who’s been hunting the same man for other crimes. Things get crazy as they catch up with their bad guy and the Lucky Ned Pepper gang that he’s joined up with. People die in exciting ways. 

It’s been said that this Coen film is not so much of a remake of the original film, but a movie that more closely follows the source novel. I haven’t read the book, and don’t think how closely a movie follows a book has anything to do with the overall quality of the movie. 

With that in mind, as a film, the 1969 version with John Wayne is the superior piece. That’s all I will say about that here, as the Coen version deserves to be considered on its own merits. (For the comparison though, go to the “Features” page.)

The best thing in the movie is Hailee Steinfeld. It’s been rumored that the Coens went on some huge nationwide search to find their lead. Their efforts paid off. This is a new actress to watch for in the future. In a film starring Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges, she owns every scene. The next best thing is Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper. His intelligent villain is more fun to watch than Josh Brolin’s simpleton Cheney. The cinematography is done well, as one can come to expect from frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins. The attention to detail is great, just look at Lucky Ned Pepper’s teeth. It feels more genuine compared to other Westerns where people are camping with clean clothes and pearly whites. 

Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon do their roles just as fine as they could have. Apparently such strict adherence to the book required more humor. I can’t help but imagine that if the Coens had come up with this story as an original screenplay, they would’ve also made it a darker Western, similar to Unforgiven, and at least had an equal amount of startling bits of violence in addition to the humor, which they did to perfection in Fargo. The first half hour almost felt like a comedy. My biggest beef with the movie is that there was too much humor for a story where a teenage girl is hunting down her father’s killer. 

All in all, the film is good, but I expected more. I suppose being as good as filmmakers as the Coen Brothers is a double-edged sword. With such incredible additions to American cinema, people (like me) sort of expect them to hit a home run everytime. I’d say it’s one of the weaker Coen films. The bright side to that is that those are still pretty damn good.

For those who might care, the violence in the film is sparing, but graphic and brutal enough that I thought it deserved an R rating. 

Rating: 6.5/10 

True Grit
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Written by Joel & Ethan Coen, Charles Portis (novel)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper

Other Player Affinity Reviews

Dinah thought: “True Grit is cinematic mastery. Elegant, tasteful, humorous, and dramatic, it has all the makings of an Oscar winner. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld disappear into their characters and deliver melodious dialogue typical of a Coen Brothers’ film. Subtle humor, glorious scenery, and majestic music are all staples of these directors and this Western adaptation is no exception. It’s flawless.” Rating: 10/10

Simon thought: “The Western genre is certainly one cinematic segment that I approach gingerly — it is simply not my cup of tea. But leave it to the Coens to add their own unique flavour and rack up True Grit alongside 3:10 to Yuma and Unforgiven among the masterful modern westerns. The heart and sole of this remake is the trio of leads: Jeff Bridges, who is among my frontrunners for the best performance of the year, Matt Damon who brings a wonderful combination of bravado and cockiness to the role of a wayward Texas Ranger and finally newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who alongside Natalie Portman represents the best of 2010’s female performances. My two qualms with this gritty (yet drolly funny) Western come in the form of the ending and lack of a central villain. After a blistering climax, we are subjected to an additional ten minutes of subdued exposition which drains away the accumulated tension. Also, though the entire story is centered around Steinfeld’s Mattie quest to find her fathers killer, Josh Brolin as the outlaw has all but ten minutes of unmemorable screen time. Small faults aside, True Grit is crowd-pleasing and brutal in equal measure and will certainly be a major contender this awards season.” Rating: 8.5/10 

Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.3/10 

Rating
8.2

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