True Grit (2011)

The ‘Dude’ becomes ‘The Duke’…

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon & Josh Brolin

Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Screenplay by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Plot:

A tough old stubborn U.S Marshall helps a young girl track down her father’s murderer.

Verdict:

The last time the ridiculously consistent Coen Brothers found themselves in remake territory, the end result was far from their usual high standards. There re-telling of the British comedy classic The Ladykillers stands as the one dip in form amongst their glowing CV. Thankfully though, Joel and Ethan’s latest picture, True Grit actually does the opposite, bettering the original film and staying very faithful to the original Charles Portis novel first published back in 1968.

Said novel is the key to the Coen’s success here. Back in 2008, The Coen’s wonderful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men achieved similar results because of the way they absorbed McCarthy into there own DNA. The same can be said here with the widely unknown Portis’ wry humour a perfect fit for the Coen’s way with dialogue. It really is the dialogue that sings here, from Mattie Ross bargaining with a horse trader to Rooster Cogburn telling tales of his ex-wife.

By staying faithful to the novel, this version of True Grit is very much told from the point of view of 14-year-old Mattie Ross who hires U.S Marshall Rooster Cogburn to track down and bring to justice the man who shot her father dead. The original 1969 film is very similar in fact but John Wayne’s towering performance couldn’t help but give the impression the film was driven by his character more. Still, it’s worth pointing out that Kim Darby’s original portrayal of Ross was still very good under the circumstances. 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld’s breakout performance this time out however is most certainly worth shouting about. The young actress wraps her lips around the potentially difficult dialogue with considerable ease and delivers a steely performance with subtle hints of sadness.

Jeff Bridges fits the role of Rooster Cogburn perfectly, nailing the double toughness and rusted nobility of the character. Elsewhere, Matt Damon fairs well as the cocky La Beouf (pronounced “La Beef”) clearly enjoying himself in a role that wasn’t so well cast in the original film. Josh Brolin pops up in one of his small but effective roles as the wanted Tom Chaney and Barry Pepper is perfectly cast as the ruthless outlaw Lucky Ned Pepper.

Once again, Roger Deakins outdoes himself with his lush cinematography and the score from Carter Burwell is beautifully handled. Both these elements combine brilliantly for Rooster’s rousing two-gun, reins-in-his-teeth showdown with Pepper’s posse, a scene which allows ‘The Dude’ to pay full tribute to ‘The Duke’ (“Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!”) in fine style.

If you love the Coen’s, True Grit will instantly become your new favourite movie but even if you don’t, theirs still a good chance you will enjoy it all the same, it is that good and simply stands as yet another masterpiece from cinema’s finest writing/directing partnership.

Written by Daniel Cummings

19 thoughts on “True Grit (2011)”

  1. The only thing that suprised me more than how much I loved this movie was Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I feel like she out-shone and even out-performed Jeff Bridges in some scenes, which is hard for me to admit seeing how I’m a huge fan of his. Her performance alone is worth seeing this film and I love how you mentioned how she nailed the diagloue, which was no easy feat.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, all though there are plenty of reasons to watch this film, Steinfeld’s perfect performance is worth the ticket price alone! thanks for the feedback!

  3. My honest opinion of this movie? The Coen Brothers make another less-than-worthy movie which got buzz because of their names. The movie was good, no doubt, but it wasn’t in the top 5, and barely in the top 10, for best movies of last year. Of course, this is just my opinion.

  4. I think True Grit is more-than-worthy, especially compared to some of the other box office hits from last year. While I agree on the “wasn’t in the top 5” I fully believe that it deserves the top 10. It doesn’t even matter that their names were on it, I thought the acting was great and the cinematography was stunning during some scenes…maybe it just wasn’t your type of film? Either way, not everyone had to like it I guess…

  5. I don’t think True Grit was over-hyped at all, the simple fact of the matter is consistent filmmakers like the Coen’s continually live up to expectations. True Grit is another fine example of this and for me is right up there with their best work.

  6. I think it was my type of film, and the cinematography was overrated compared to Wally Pfister’s Inception shots, The Social Network’s great shots, or last year’s best shots from Black Swan by Matthew Libitique. To Daniel, I don’t think it was “over-hyped,” just looked very highly upon because The Coen Brothers, who, in my opinion (again, this is just in my opinion), haven’t delivered anything excellent since The Big Lebowski. Everyone else may differ, but I’m just voicing my opinion. I thought the acting was good, but again, it had nothing on the ensemble of Black Swan, The Social Network, Inception, Harry Brown, Shutter Island, or Biutiful (again, my opinion).

  7. Valid point, I agree completely that Inception and the other big hitters from last year are better in many ways. I have yet to see Harry Brown or Biutiful but they are high on my to watch list at the moment and I look forward to see them even more now that you mention them being better than True Grit!

    Can anyone ever top the Big L? haha

  8. It’s always difficult comparing great movies for sure, all the films you mention J.C. are brilliant for different reasons (all though, sorry i was a little disappointed with Harry Brown). But one thing i am confident of is that True Grit will be remembered as one of the best films of this new decade.

  9. To Shannon, no, I think it was a masterpiece. Daniel, possibly, yes, but most likely the most popular, best ones will be Avatar, Inception, and The Departed. But who knows, perhaps the movie will eventually appeal to me more. I do think that Brolin deserved immense credit for his role, which, though small, was really good. Barry Pepper, as well.

  10. Didn’t think it was a masterpiece. One of the best of 2010 but not a masterpiece. One thing I wanted to point out that you mentioned was how faithful they remained to the novel. I think that’s important because the Coen brothers reiterated several times that ‘this is not a remake. It’s our adaptation of the novel.’ Just an interesting side note.

  11. Yes, it was insanely close to the novel. With No Country for Old Men, it seemed that they let mystery take the helm more than the plot of the Cormac McCarthy masterpiece.

  12. Finally watched Rooster Cogburn, the sequel to the original True Grit, pretty good actually and interestingly, one scene was taken from Rooster Cogburn for the True Grit remake.

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