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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: True Grit (2010) (15) ★★★★★
A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.


Before we begin I feel I need to make one thing perfectly clear, the Coen Brothers True Grit is not a remake of the John Wayne film of old. No. This is a Coen Brothers film, it wouldn't be that straight forward. So forget about The Duke and marvel at The Dude as there will be no reference to Wayne's film in this review.

Joel and Ethan Coen take Charles Portis's novel and adapt it to the screen so faithfully yet retain their own style and influence that it's breathtaking to see the thing unfold minute by minute. The adage "they don't make em like they used to" isn't a phrase that's applicable here.

The story revolves around fourteen year old Mattie Ross and her journey in bringing her fathers killer to justice. In her quest to see the murderer Tom Chaney hanged she enlists the help of aged, merciless US Marshall Rooster Cogburn and the more young, enthusiastic Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. This is the base of the storyline which sets the foundations for some great storytelling and astounding character development.

At the forefront of everything is Jeff Bridges's Cogburn. Mean, grizzled, with a reputation for an itchy trigger finger and an almost indistinguishable accent, Bridges Cogburn casts a massive shadow over the rest of the cast. The joy in this however is that everyone else has to be on their A game so it's amazing that  newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie almost steals the show. With Bridges, Matt Damon (Laboeuf) and Josh Brolin (Chaney), all oscar winners and all hitting top form it'd be easy for the relative newcomer to underplay everything and just ride on their coat-tails but Steinfeld never lets this happen. In fact, she's the one in which I believe spurs on these heavyweights to bring out their best, she's cock-sure, confident and exudes a maturity that belies her fourteen years of age. An astonishing performance and one which should bring about some form of awards recognition.

However this is Bridges movie and all the praise will rightly be laid at his feet. The Coens know how cool he can be, for Christ sake he was The Dude, and they, including Bridges, pitch Cogburn perfectly.

It'd be ridiculous for me to comment on the Coen's direction, they are without doubt the masters in their field and Grit is no exception. Yes it's true that the style and atmosphere of the film is a nod to rugged westerns of old but it has their stamp right the way through it, this cannot be argued. The way they seem to balance seriousness with black humour is without equal and even in this tough western they still manage to raise wry smiles throughout "if you want to sleep in a coffin it'd be allright".  The cinematography and visuals are again breathtaking from the slight drops of snow which pepper the actors, to the sharp, quick scenes of violence that catch you off guard. Incredible.

Joel and Ethan have made yet another great, classic piece of cinema and you'd be a fool to miss this. Oscar will most definitely take notice but the question is will it be the old hands that reap the rewards or the new kid on the block?


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