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Movie Review - True Grit

Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon & Hailee Steinfeld

True Grit (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld. Directed by the Coen Brothers)

First off, I want to qualify this by saying I am not a huge fan of Westerns. I usually find them boring and dry and filled with mumbling, incoherent men who think they’re cool for no discernible reason. That said, I really enjoyed True Grit. The movie begins with young Mattie Ross’s (Steinfeld) father being murdered over some horses by a criminal named Chancy (Josh Brolin). While out of town arranging his funeral, Ross decides to hire a marshal (a sort of bounty hunter) to help her find Chancy so that he can hang for murdering her father. He accepts, reluctantly, and sets off to complete the job without her. Ross is having none of that and doggedly follows him and insinuates herself into the hunt. Along the way, they run into another marshal by the name of Laboeuf (Damon) who has been tracking Chancy for months but has been unable to catch him, mostly due to a bit of dim-wittedness on Laboeuf’s part.

The storyline is simple and actually very quiet, like most Westerns are. The trio travels through wilderness and camps together as they track Chancy and the men he’s taken up with. The movie leaves a lot of time for interaction between the three leads which is both the movie’s strength and its weakness.
First off, the plot is not bad - the trio meet up with various informants and characters and there is enough action to keep the viewer entertained. The main problem lies in the villain. Chancy (Brolin) is talked about through most of the movie, but when we finally encounter him in the last 30 minutes or so, he’s very disappointing. He doesn’t live up to the hype at all and the encounter between Ross and the man who murdered her father is a bit anticlimactic. That’s my only real fault with the movie - more care could have been devoted to the villain and the showdown between him and our heroes.

On the other hand, the interaction between the three leads is very interesting. Damon plays a sort of annoying but ultimately nice man who is embarrassed about his own faults and trying desperately to prove something to himself. Bridges seems to be having a pretty good time mumbling through his scenes and stumbling around as the drunk that his character, Rooster Cogburn, is supposed to be. He’s old and fat, as he keeps telling people, and the movie makes the wise choice of straying away from the old cliché of he’s-old-but-spry-when-he-needs-to-be and presenting Cogburn as more of a spry man who, underneath is getting too tired and downtrodden to continue in this line of work any longer. The two men bicker and argue, both annoyed at their faults being pointed out and desperate to appear competent in the face of Ross's wise-for-her-age personality. The two men are very protective of the girl, something that is actually hinted at near the beginning of the movie as they roughly brush her aside and try to get her to leave. They’re afraid that she’s too young and too weak to survive a hunt like this and want her to go home not only because she may be a hindrance, but because they’re both good enough men to worry about her safety. We see this in a twisted way when she stubbornly leads her horse through deep water to catch up to them after they leave her behind, and Laboeuf’s first reaction is to pull her off her horse and spank her. Their care for the girl is what leads to the poignancy of the end of the movie.

The real star, though, is Hailee Steinfeld who gives a performance that is tough without being annoying and mature without being precocious. This is a hard role to fill and many other girls of her age (14) would either come off whiny and annoying, or perhaps too feminine for the role. But Steinfeld is perfectly rough but innocent. She haggles and holds her own against the men around her, and tells people how it is. She’s smart and has a sense of justice that is perhaps a bit naive - and in this way, she’s still very immature. She fights with Cogburn about bringing Chancy to hang in Texas because she wants him to hang for the crime of killing her father, not for any other crime. In this - thinking that it matters where he’s hanged - that she shows her true age. The two marshals with her understand that the particulars of life sometimes don’t matter and that you can’t always have your way in every small thing - but she still stubbornly refuses to yield. Mattie Ross is one of the most unique and satisfying girl’s to see on the screen and most of the movie rides on her great performance.

Overall, I give this movie a 4/5 and recommend it to most people. You can buy True Grit on DVD or Blu-ray from our online store.

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+ comments + 2 comments

March 8, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Cinematography was excellent, script was good, cast was good, but somewhere in there the directors lost interest and failed to do a professional job of making a movie.

March 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Great movie and a bit different than earlier movies from the Coen's.

Inspired me to check out the original. Anyone seen it and how is it compared to this one?

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