Already 10 years old, and I loved this movie when we watched it the first time. Obviously I never got around writing a review of it. But now I’ve watched it a second time … and was smitten again. True Grit is a timeleess story, very well told and stands the test of time.
Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with “true grit,” Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her “grit” tested.
When rewatching True Grit just a couple days ago I noticed what I loved so particularly about the fine film by the Coen Brothers: The photography. Nothing spectacular, no exploding starships or sumsuch over the top stuff. Just pretty, full of atmosphere and, yes, grit. No wonder why it was so good. Behind the camera was Hollywoods greatest living Director of Photography, Roger Deakins. And he worked for non else but Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, so greatness was almost guaranteed for this film project.
For a really great film add a wonderful ensemble consisting of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and the wonderful newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as revenge seeking brat Mattie Ross. I had seen her last in Bumblebee, where she also blew me away with her ability to carry a whole fat ass H-wood production on her small girlish shoulders. It was Bumblebee, btw, which reminded me I had to rewatch True Grit. And yep, same girl, same wild talent!
Let’s not diminish Hailee Steinfeld’s contribution to Tue Grit. Bridges and Damon are superstars, Steinfeld a schoolgirl, a nobody fresh from a casting call. Yet it is her role and her personality the whole movie is about and circles around.
Not saying that Damon and Bridges aren’t great and surprisingly well-casted. Ugh, no. Bridges is the personified drunk US Marshall Cogburn with flexible ethics, was perfectly cast for this. I had my doubts about Damon as a hardboiled Texas Ranger tho. But he played his part of La Boeuf with just the right amount of arrogance and self-assured air and steadfast principle. To watch his bickerings with Bridges and Steinfeld was a joy. Here again it showed how important a well-written screenplay is.
Disney Star Wars, take note!
The rest of the ensemble did fine jobs as well. That’s probably another sign of the Coen’s quality as directors, to cast the whole movie with confident professionals who can hold their own.
Let’s not forget the wonderful Josh Brolin as the coward muderer Tom Chaney. We all know Broling is able to headline a movie on his own, here he humbly accepts his small part. Professionalism? Yes, I think so. Also when the Coens call you, No ain’t an option. 😉
No much to say about the film itself. It’s a fairly straightforward story of revenge and coming of age, a “road movie”, a voyage, a wild west story. Speaking of Disney (we just talked about them, didn’t we?), True Grit is a realistic version of Star Wars, just made by professional adults – and one teenie girl – who knew what they were doing. Proper motivation, proper characters, proper screenplay, very properly set in scene.
I bet no reshoots were needed and both Coens had the movie already finished in their minds and storyboards before the first scene was even filmed. That is what filmmakers usually do, that’s how filmmaking works. Have plan, have schedule, get it done. I hope the gentlemen Johnson and Abrams, and their mommy Kennnedy too, will learn that lesson one fine day.
I sooo admire the Coens for their storytelling and pacing skills. A movie like this, a manhunt on horseback, shouldn’t feel rushed at no point in time. And the Coens avoided that trap very elegantly. Still there is always something happening and the film never becomes boring or feels like dragging.
Another sign of a quality film. The Coens set the plot in scene very eloquentely and economically. Not a single wasted scene or camera set-up.
A pretty standard wild west story, nothing to write home about … but brought to greatness by the Coens, the cast and the sensationally good Roger Deakins behind the camera. A film for the ages, one you can watch and watch again. Yes, like the first 3 Star Wars episodes (IV, V and VI) every couple years I feel the need to rewatch True Grit.
And instead of the usual parade of reviewers I show you an enlightening video, okay?