True Grit (2010)

PG-13   |    |  Adventure, Drama, Western


True Grit (2010) Poster

A stubborn teenager enlists the help of a tough U.S. Marshal to track down her father's murderer.

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7.6/10
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  • Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (2010)
  • Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (2010)
  • Jeff Bridges in True Grit (2010)
  • Matt Damon at an event for True Grit (2010)
  • Roger Deakins in True Grit (2010)
  • Celia Weston at an event for True Grit (2010)

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23 December 2010 | Monotreme02
8
| Good ol' fashioned storytelling
As is to be expected, the film has all the classic Coen flourishes, first and foremost its use of language. The Coens have always been impeccably tuned in to language and accents, from the most creative use of swear words in The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading to the colorful, stylized prose of The Hudsucker Proxy and The Man Who Wasn't There to the very distinct accents in Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men. In classic Coen fashion, the use of language is very much emphasized in True Grit. The characters have a very distinct use of words, lifted right out of the novel and, as it feels at least, right out of the time period the film takes place in. Unlike something like Deadwood which features a very modernized and stylized version of 18th century speak, the dialogue in True Grit sounds completely authentic and, along with the impeccable and accurate-feeling costume and set design, really adds to the realism of the world True Grit creates. Accents are also very important – the harsh Southern drawl that the Coens have always been attracted to is very prominent and plays a very large role in the film.

As has become expected of the brothers, especially in recent years, the film looks incredibly beautiful, mainly thanks to regular DP Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography. All of his trademarks are in place: harsh but very naturalistic lighting, washed-out colors, especially in the outdoor scenes, smooth camera movements, and just a generally beautiful palette he uses to paint the world of the film with. Also very prominent in the film is the beautiful score by Carter Burwell. It hearkens back to his more melodic work on the Coen brothers' earlier films, especially Miller's Crossing. Using themes from classic hymns from the time period of the film, the soundtrack, along with the language of the dialogue, helps add a very strong feeling of authenticity to the film. It is a beautiful piece of music: dramatic but not heavy- handed, whimsical but with a hint of darkness to it. These two long-time Coen collaborators, as well as the costume and set designers, with whom the Coens have also worked with many times before, all deliver top-notch work and show once again just how strong the power of long-term collaboration can be.

Other returning collaborators are a number of the cast members. The Coens seem to have grown distant from most of their long-time regular cast members (Jon Polito, John Turturro, John Goodman, Steven Buscemi, and others), but Coen regulars still make appearances in some of their recent work. In this case, it is "The Dude" Lebowski himself, Jeff Bridges, who makes his triumphant return in a Coen brothers film, filling the very large shoes of John Wayne, who gave an iconic performance as Rooster Cogburn in the first adaptation of True Grit, from 1969. Bridges brings his own unique style and sensibilities to the role, combining his drunken goofiness with the demeanor of a serious and very skilled hunter and lawman. It is a wonderful performance playing to all of Bridges' best abilities as an actor, and it is just a joy to watch. Also playing to his best qualities is Matt Damon, who delivers one of the loosest and most fun performances of his career as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (or "La Beef", as he is referred to, by himself as well, in the film). Damon is clearly having fun with the role, although like Bridges, he, too, manages to find a very excellent balance between the humor and the seriousness and skill his character has. But the standout performance has to be newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who beat out 15,000 other girls for the part. Open casting calls often provide disappointing results, as nonprofessional actors tend to be just that – not professional. 14-year-old Steinfeld proves she is a talent to watch, though – she totally commands the screen with her strong-willed, stubborn character, and manages to hold her own against Bridges, Damon and Josh Brolin, who makes a brief but memorable appearance later in the film. It is a fantastic, powerful performance that is an absolute joy to watch. I foresee great things from Steinfeld in the future.

Many people will be turned off by the straightforwardness of the storytelling in True Grit. I have already heard complaints that the film lacks poignancy. But that isn't what it lacks. What it lacks is irony. It's actually quite amazing to see a film so completely and utterly devoid of irony such as this one – it seems like most films these days, including the Coen brothers' recent output, all carry this air of cynicism about them. True Grit hearkens back to a more classic form of plot and character-driven storytelling, and in that sense, it succeeds immensely. Ultimately, True Grit is a piece of pure entertainment – and it is quite an entertaining film: thrilling, engaging, and very, very funny. I have read many opinions claiming that this "doesn't feel like a Coen brothers film," but its storytelling style and techniques actually remind me most of another classic Coen film, Miller's Crossing. That film was also completely stripped of irony and instead focused on telling a good old-fashioned yarn, nothing more, nothing less. So while True Grit is not one of the very best films in the Coen's oeuvre, it is still just a darn good film overall.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jeff Bridges's Oscar nomination for this film marks the seventh time in Oscar history that one actor has been nominated for playing a role that had already earned another actor an Oscar. There were two instances involving the character of King Henry VIII, with Robert Shaw nominated in 1967 for A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Richard Burton nominated in 1970 for Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), after Charles Laughton earned his Oscar for the role in 1933's The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933). Also in 1970, Peter O'Toole was nominated for playing Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), a role that won Robert Donat an Oscar for 1939's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). It happened again in the 1970s when Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro each won Oscars for playing Vito Corleone (in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), respectively). The fifth occurrence was when Gérard Depardieu, was nominated for the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), a role that had already won an Oscar for José Ferrer (1950's Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)). The sixth was when Cate Blanchett was nominated for playing Queen Elizabeth I in 1998 and 2008 in Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), respectively, a role that won Judi Dench an Oscar in 1998 for Shakespeare in Love (1998). John Wayne won Best Actor for playing Rooster Cogburn in the original True Grit (1969). The original True Grit, and the first two Godfathers, all featured Robert Duvall as well, who appeared with Jeff Bridges the previous year in his Oscar-winning role in Crazy Heart (2009).


Quotes

40-Year-Old Mattie: People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down and robbed him of ...


Goofs

Before drunken shooting scene Rooster falls off his horse and the bottom of his boot is exposed. The boot has a modern Vibram sole with traction grooves. Boots of that period had leather soles with no grooves.


Crazy Credits

Buster Coen, Ethan Coen's son, is listed in the end credits as "Mr. Damon's abs double". In reality, he was an on-set assistant to the script supervisor.


Soundtracks

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS
Written by
Charles Crozat Converse (as Charles C. Converse)

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Drama | Western

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