January 4th, 2011

True Grit Review

Another new writer, Julius Black, joins the nerd team for his first article.  Leave some comments and tell him what you think.

In the Time of Remakes, Reboots and Sequels, many films tend to go high on visual style, losing the distinctive flair and magic of the originals in lieu of something more modern and dare I say, “edgier”, but fail when it comes to constructing an engaging story. (Here’s looking at you Tron: Legacy). Directors dip into the remake pool with the idea of simply adding new actors, missing opportunities to make the story their own and taking it to new aspects in an effort to surpass the original in an act of actual creativity and not just a simple chance at a blockbuster movie. True Grit is not only a winning film, but it possesses the craftsmanship that is distinctive to the Coen Brothers’ style, outshining the original True Grit in every way.

True Grit is the sort of film that looks like it pulls off everything it needs to do effortlessly. It’s clear cut and perfectly paced, based more on the Charles Portis novel than the 1969 original film, telling the story from Mattie’s perspective. The plot follows as thus: Jeff Bridges plays Rooter Cogburn, an old, one eyed, alcoholic U.S. Marshal who is hired by Mattie Ross (Haliee Steinfeld), a young, strong willed Arkansas girl to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), a wanted man who murdered Ross’ father and fled with a gang into the New Mexican countryside. Matt Damon joins the duo as Texas Ranger LaBeouf, also in search of Chaney.

Jeff Bridges fills John Wayne’s shoes well, portraying Cogburn with the character’s brutal, trigger happy style. It’s interesting to watch Bridges transform himself between films (almost recreating The Big Lebowski’s “The Dude” in this year’s Tron: Legacy) and enter completely new areas he has yet to step into.  Matt Damon also comes off great, opposing Cogburn’s simple guts and nerve with LaBouef’s poise and civility. But Haliee Steinfeld shines in her debut role. Against high profile actors (both obvious and not) Steinfield holds her own in character and ability. As Mattie Ross is the primary character of the film, Steinfeld is present in just about every scene, supporting the film with just her presence.

As they did with “No Country For Old Men”, the Coen Brothers have created a sort of genuine feeling in the look of True Grit. The costumes and language are fitting, complimenting the characters without going over the top. The scenery is wide and expansive, the sepia colors blending across the screen.  While the Coen’s haven’t necessarily changed much of the classic True Grit, they have definitely created a work that can stand with the original in the list of great American westerns.

Julius Black

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