True Grit (2011) – Review

The Coen brothers bring the Western back to our screens in the triumphant True Grit...

True Grit first hit cinema screens in 1969 and was the only film that John Wayne wonan Oscar for. Now, some 42 years later, a new True Grit is hitting our screens. Taken from the original novel by Charles Portis rather than just re-doing the 1969 film, the Coen Brothers bring a new breed of western to cinemas worldwide.

The film stars Jeff Bridges as Reuben ‘Rooster’ Cogburn, a ruthless, drunken U.S. Marshall who reluctantly agrees to help 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield) go after the man who killed her father. Mattie is out for revenge and won’t stop until Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) is caught and hung for his crime. A Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), is also on Chaney’s trial having tried for months to capture him for the murder of a senator. Mattie need a man with True Grit and she believes Cogburn fits the bill.

The Coens have created a truly fantastic Western for our time in True Grit. It shows that by keeping to the original source material they have succeeded where the John Wayne film failed. Although Wayne may be a legend, all discussion of the 1969 film centres around his performance. Here, however, there are many more discussion points.

The true star of the film is undoubtedly Hailee Steinfield as Mattie Ross. A complete newcomer to the big screen, her acting talent not only holds its own with Bridges and Damon, but on many occasions eclipses them. She brings a raw edge to Mattie, a young girl who knows how to step up and speak to men as an equal. She not only earns the respect from her male companions but of the audience as well. Her quick wit and sharp tongue makes this a rather educational film.
Bridges is, of course, on brilliant form here and his Rooster Cogburn in some ways is not that much different to his character in Crazy Heart – both drunks who know their stuff and have heart beneath their exterior. Damon too impresses as a more secondary part. His Texas Ranger is amusing and in some ways looks like a caricature but this nevertheless works well and he never feels out of place.

True Grit doesn’t spare on the violent nature of the story but there isn’t any violence where it isn’t needed. The quick-fire rounds of shooting and horse riding are as enjoyable to watch as the more tender moments between Mattie, Rooster and LaBoeuf.

The film has true grit and the Coens have once again proven they are some of the best film-makers of recent years and have brought the Western back to Hollywood.

Best performance: Hailee Steinfield (Mattie Ross)
Best scene: The shoot out at the log cabin.
Best line: ‘And “futile”, Marshal Cogburn, “pursuit would be futile”? It’s not spelled “f-u-d-e-l.”‘. – Mattie Ross
Watch this if you liked: True Grit, No Country For Old Men, Unforgiven.

Jeff Bridges was 2 years younger than John Wayne was when he portrayed the character of Rueben J “Rooster” Cogburn in the original True Grit.

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