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True Grit



Released: 27th December 2010

Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Luke Walkley

The Coen Brothers are not afraid to venture into the obscure and they do so, with a unique eye for crazy unlike any other. They would seem an odd choice then, to re-imagine the 1969 John Wayne classic True Grit. Despite this, they set about rewriting the screenplay and then directing, this modern attempt at making a classic western.

True Grit centres around 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who seeks the help of US Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt down and bring her father’s killer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) to justice. After being convinced to take the job, Cogburn and Ross set out on their way to find Chaney. They are joined by a Texas Ranger, Labeouf (Matt Damon) who has been hunting for Chaney for several months following the murder of a Texan senator. The trio become unlikely allies and find themselves coming face to face with dangerous villains on the hunt to find their man.

The casting for this film needed to be perfect, John Wayne has been criticised for playing the same ‘character’ in his westerns series, however he always managed a certain bravado and swagger that many would fail at attempting to match, let alone emulate on screen. However, Bridges has an uncanny knack of becoming the man he is portraying to the degree that, after Crazy Heart and even Tron Legacy, it’s hard not to picture him as a loner in reality. This is exactly what was required of these roles, had it been due to the fact he was trapped in his own creation for 20 years, or that he was an alcoholic man of the law. Bridges doesn’t become a character, he IS the character. The point at which this film differs from the original, is that it follows the story from the perspective of 14year old Mattie Ross. When the Coen’s decided this, the actress needed to stand out from the crowd as without a solid performance the film could fall apart. Step up Hailee Steinfeld, in her first motion picture, which after watching this you will find extremely hard to believe. Her presence is so natural and she gives a performance that is rarely seen from anyone so young, let alone so inexperienced. Most recently Chloe Moretz, of Kick Ass earned acclaim from her role as ‘Hit-Girl’ however, whereas Moretz was brilliant in a role that required a shock factor, Steinfeld’s confidence is a true masterpiece to behold.

The movie sets a typical Coen Brothers feel from the start, a beautiful opening scene re-tells the story and we move onto seeing Mattie Ross’ bartering skills with a local business man. I say typical Coen, as if you have seen Fargo and most recently No Country For Old Men, you will know how heavily they rely on the dialogue to create some fantastically memorable scenes (Javier Bardem and the ‘flip of a coin’ scene in NCFOM, is a perfect example).

Not since Unforgiven have we seen a decent enough western to be considered one of the ‘classics’ along the lines of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and Wayne’s numerous on screen outings including True Grit. But this film had everything that was required of it and more. Beautiful scenery and old style setting, the horses the guns and the villains. Barry Pepper takes

Robert Duvall’s role of Lucky Ned Pepper and excels at it. Damons character LaBeouf, who seems the anti-hero to begin, is acted so well by Damon, that you love, yet hate the character all at the same time. Exactly how it is supposed to be.

As you can read, I’ve mentioned an awful lot about the performances, but that is because the story isn’t original. It’s a typical revenge tale, with small Coen twists. The soundtrack sets each scene beautifully and the banter between the three along with later scenes involving Chaney and Pepper is typically witty yet intoxicating all at the same time.

Another fantastic Oscar contender that truly leaves me with no idea who will be victorious come the ceremony. All I can say with any certainty is that the start of 2011 has been blessed with some outstanding films. The Kings Speech, Black Swan, The Fighter and 127 Hours all masterpieces in their own genre. Hopefully the year can continue on such a high.

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