True Grit (2010)

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Matt Damon's jangly spurs, Jeff Bridges's cornbread-shooting, & a man in a bear suit: all things True Grit has in its favor. In fact, the only thing I wasn't so keen on was Hailee Steinfeld's Academy Award-nominated turn as the precocious Mattie Ross. But let me call out my bias against child actors who speak like uppity adults and move on. True Grit is a characteristically witty western by the Coen Brothers. Matt Damon turns in perhaps his greatest comedic performance as LaBeouf, an arrogant Texas Ranger with impressive facial hair. Jeff Bridges is as wonderful as ever, particularly in a scene of drunken bravado, in which he careens off his horse and haphazardly swings his pistol round his finger before fussily managing to fit it back into his holster. There's plenty of blood, there's plenty of wit, and there's plenty of beautiful cinematography. Though it wasn't my favorite film of the year, True Grit is definitely worth a look.


Thank God this film got a lot of Oscar buzz, and, ultimately, a nomination for Best Picture. If it hadn't, I never would have seen it. Even the stamp of excellence that any Cohen brothers movie immediately arrives with couldnvt make me want to see a film that heavily featured Jeff Bridges riding a horse and toting a gun around a lot of barren desert. The trailer certainly didn't help matters at all as it gave the impression that the entire film would be narrated by a 12 year old with a questionable accent. But the buzz came and I reminded myself that it featured Matt Damon and, I assumed, his legs, whose performance in last year's Invictus was one of my favorites of the year (the legs performance, not Matt Damon's).

So I gritted my teeth and was forced to watch one of the best films of the year. Win!

True Grit is a remake of a movie that was based on a book called, appropriately, True Grit. John Wayne won a career Oscar for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in the original version, released in 1969. Wayne himself admitted that the Oscar should have gone to Richard Burton in Anne of a Thousand Days, a comment that I can confirm as true. For whatever reasons, though, Wayne's performance in Grit has gone down in the record books as "Untouchable"... until now. In comparing the performance of John Wayne against that of Jeff Bridges, Stephen Whitty (I'm not making that up) of "The Star Ledger" writes, "If anyone ever needed a quick lesson in the difference between being a great star and being a great actor, a new True Grit arrives to give a master's class". It's in my humble opinion that this also speaks to the major difference between the two films: 1969's True Grit is a great star vehicle. 2011's True Grit is a great movie.

I've focused so much on Bridge's performance, but it IS at the heart of True Grit. The trailer isn't very misleading, in that much of the movie is simply Jeff and Co. wandering around a lot of undeveloped land, looking for one person. I liked Haillee Stanfield, who supplies the reason for the trek in the first place, and I loved Matt Damon as the cocky yet unfortunate third wheel... but neither of these performances would amount to anything without Jeff Bridge's Rooster to play off of. It's a great character and it's a great execution, and coming off of last year's silly Crazy Heart, Bridges reinstates our faith in his acting chops, and the Coen brothers reinstate our faith in their ability to always pick the right projects to work on (although this faith only faltered when they stated they were remaking this film).

A movie can be great based off of one person's achievement in said movie. Look at Norma Rae, Philadelphia, Mighty Aphrodite, Breakfast at Tiffany's (I'm looking at you, Mickey Rooney) and the list goes on and on. Great movies have certainly been built on less. True Grit is simply built on more.


This epic western remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic is not a far cry from its predecessor. Despite the Coen brothers' declaration that they were not making a remake but were instead making a brand new interpretation of the book, the story is largely handled the same save the ending. However, it is still a magnificent film. Once again the Coens have ideal casting. Despite consistent accolades suggesting otherwise, the only average, and frequently annoying, acting was done by co-lead Hailee Steinfeld. The Coens' interpretation of this story is great. Only they could bring just the right tone to a modern-made old timey western. They create a wonderful world of old West stoicism mixed in perfect harmony with their notorious dry wit. The grandness of each character gives way to comic satire. Along with the directing and acting, this film truly reaches greatness through the ingenious cinematography of Roger Deakins who previously shot No Country for Old Men with the Coens. His lighting, shadows, angles, wide shots, and movement are sublime in every film and this is no exception.