True Grit

True Grit

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men)
Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
Appropriate for ages 13+

    For many Americans, the original True Grit stands out as one of the great western classics and perhaps John Wayne’s best film.  After Wayne won his first and only Oscar for his turn as Rooster Cogburn, the rough, tough and drunk U.S. Marshall that helps a young girl seek revenge against the man who killed her pa, it became hard to imagine the heroic cowboy without his infamous eye patch. 

    For those that wonder why they would possibly remake such a treasured film – its simple – they didn’t.  The Coen Brothers, who have created some of the most visionary work in the last twenty years, wanted to tell their version of the story as laid out in the novel by Charles Portis.  The elements are largely the same, but the movies are very different. 

    Donning the eyepatch now is Coen Brothers alum Jeff Bridges, fresh off of his Oscar win for Crazy Heart.  His larger than life presence, dangerous confidence and heartless exterior make him an excellent Rooster Cogburn.  It would not surprise me at all if he were up for another Oscar this year, although I doubt he’ll win due to the amazingly tough competition and the fact that he received a trophy in 2009.  Matt Damon is also wickedly good as Cogburn’s sidekick Texas Ranger LaBoeuf.  But stealing the show is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the tough as nails fourteen-year-old who wants to see her father’s killer hanged.  The studio is pushing Hailee for Best Supporting Actress during awards season, but I feel that this is a mistake as True Grit is her movie and she gives one of the greatest performances of the year in it. 

    While the acting is truly great – it’s not the only thing that makes the film special.  First off, the script provides a fantastic journey, filled with unusual and imaginative color that only the Coen’s could concoct.  And for those fans of great cinematography, Roger Deacons re-teams with the Coens here for a breathtaking look at the old west, proving once again that he is the finest cinematographer of our time. 

    Finally, I have to mention Carter Burwell’s magnificent score.  Usually Carter’s scores can be fun but they typically sit in the background and while they do wonders for the scenes they are in, they have never reached a peak of brilliance.  This one does.  Using the themes of protestant hymns such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” Carter provides a score that soars above the film and resonates in your head long after you’ve left the theater.  A+