Review Of True Grit 2010

True Grit

Sometimes hitting the multiplex just isn’t in the cards. That’s when cable, the web and streaming step in to provide an instant movie fix. But how to separate the wheat from the chaff? I’m happy to help; every week I’ll pick a flick and see if it’s worth your time. This week? The Cohen brother’s remake of “True Grit”

Characters and Crew Of True Grit

Main Cast:

  • Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross
  • Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn
  • Matt Damon as LaBoeuf
  • Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney


  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (based on the novel by Charles Portis)
  • Producers: Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The Story: 14-year-old Mattie Ross heads to a small town in Arkansas to collect the body of her father, who had been killed by a no-account drunk Tom Chaney. Chaney also took Mattie’s father’s horse and “two California gold pieces”. She decides to hire not the “best” U.S. Marshall to track Chaney down, but the most violent; Rooster Cogburn. Tagging along for reasons of his own is Texas Marshall LaBoef (“La-Beef”). And so they ride out into the great Arkansas nothingness, looking to get Mattie’s revenge on. Oh, you know it’s not that simple, right?

The Good: It’s the Cohen brothers, what’s not to like? Beautifully shot, wonderfully written, with a pacing to the story that spools out the tale at a clip that entertains but leaves no-one in the dust. Relative unknown Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie, and if you wondered why a kid would get an Academy Award nod, you haven’t seen this performance. Jeff Bridges abides as Rooster Cogburn (hey, he’s The Dude. Respect it.) He’s a dirty, borderline amoral, drunken bum with a badge. And he’s one bad shut-yo-mouth. Bridges can deliver layers of Cogburn in one glance, and his shootin’ prowess scene with Damon’s LaBoef is hilarious and touching, all thanks to Bridges’ amazing performance. Matt Damon as LaBoef shows that he can completely inhabit a character that isn’t Jason Bourne. This could have easily been played tongue-in-cheek, but instead it plays in deadly earnest. And damn if it doesn’t work. Plus, True Grit has one of the badass-iest minimalist-throwback movie posters I’ve seen in quite a long time.

The Bad: Um..uh…well, I didn’t like how I had to do a double-take to recognize Josh Brolin, maybe? He’s got a face you can recognize at 100 clips, but playing Tom Chaney his usually grizzled facade is a bit indistinct. As if the character himself is as flat as the planes of his face. And the no-slang-havin’ speech of the characters here sometimes had me giggling, which pulled me out of the film for a second or two. But it’s completely appropriate for it’s setting, however backward our speech has become nowadays.

The Everything Else: Gritty. Earthy. Real. That pretty much sums up all of the Cohen oeuvre, but it goes double here. Much as with No Country for Old Men and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Cohen brother’s Wild Wild West is a desolate, dusty place that holds no hope of sanctuary. It’s been said that this version hews closer to Charles Portis’ novel than the John Wayne version shot in ‘69. But these are different times, and we as moviegoers require no whitewash to pretty up the harsh realities of living in the American West of the late 1800s. I wish I could talk about the music here – O Brother’s soundtrack is still among my top 5 — but I was too busy enjoying the performances to focus on much else. When a film grabs my attention and holds it fast throughout, that ain’t a bad thing.

Here’s the breakdown:
Would I watch it again?: Absolutely. Another viewing would let me focus on the nuances of the performances, as well a the brilliant writing.
Should you see it?: Absolutely, part deux. Fans of the Cohen brothers…well, y’all have probably seen this already. If you didn’t catch it at the multiplex late last year, or during Oscar season, grab this puppy on Netflix/Redbox/On Demand/however-all. Critics picked it as one of the best movies of 2010 for good reason. It’s a great piece of filmmaking.

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