True Grit

This post was first published by Suite101. It contains spoilers. 

This remake of a classic John Wayne Western is undoubtedly a Coen brother’s production. Marked with the quick, dry humour and slightly eccentric characters that have characterised the Coen brothers previous films, True Grit is a refreshing new look at a popular genre. Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (though it lost to The King’s Speech), True Grit has been praised by critics and audiences alike. A clever, fast-paced and entertaining film, True Grit is certainly worth a watch.

True Grit follows a fourteen-year-old girl named Mattie (played with great intelligence and courage by young actress Hailee Steinfeld) as she sets out to avenge her father’s death. Mattie’s father was murdered and robbed by outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), a man the sheriff’s office is less than confident about catching. Mattie takes matters into her own hands, and fights the bureaucracy of the adult world with dogged determination in order to raise the money and the means to find Chaney. She hires Rooster Cogburn (played in the Coen brothers’ film by Jeff Bridges, and originally by John Wayne), after being told he has “true grit” enough to help her. Cogburn is an experienced if somewhat trigger happy U.S. Marshal with a drinking problem. A Texas Ranger by the name of LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also on the hunt for Chaney, wanted for shooting a senator. Together Mattie, Cogburn and LaBoeuf make their way across wild and inhospitable country, seeking justice.

While Rooster Cogburn’s reputation speaks of the grit of the film’s title, he is certainly not the only character to demonstrate this quality. There is no hero (or heroine) of this piece; each character has great strength, but they also have their weaknesses. Mattie is wonderfully brave and resourceful, but she is also often overconfident and unwilling to accept help from others. LaBoeuf may be slightly smug in his shiny Texas Ranger uniform, but he is professional and moral. And Cogburn, for all his policing prowess and years of experience, is often reduced by whiskey to a bumbling drunk. All of these characters have true grit – they are courageous, they are fallible, and they are real.

True Grit is a thoroughly enjoyable film. While it remains true to the classic drawling, gun-toting Western, it is also humorous and self-aware in a sharply modern way. The story is simple and well told, and the landscape is lawless and nostalgic. A polished production that makes it easy to get lost in Mattie Ross’s world, True Grit is easily one of the most engaging films of 2010.

True Grit is based on the original novel by Charles Portis. It is rated PG for some intense sequences of violence, including disturbing images. It runs for 110 minutes.

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