TRUE GRIT is a stylistic romp through the wild, wild west – and the western genre itself.
Forget all the hype that’s filling our theaters now – IMAX this and 3D that – and feast your eyes on a good ol’ fashioned yarn, courtesy of the brothers Coen. Ethan and Joel’s 2010 retelling of Henry Hathaway’s 1969 film returns to the source material – the novel by Charles Portis – to achieve what is essentially an upgrade in all facets of production and storytelling over the old John Wayne flick. The tale of a precocious 14 year old (played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a drunken, dirty, over-the-hill marshal named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to avenge the murder of her father is an oftentimes funny, always fun exercise in storytelling, full of enthralling detail and the brilliant dialogues you come to expect from the Coens. Matt Damon is perfectly cast as a Texas ranger who gets under Rooster’s skin, and the rest of the cast – including Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper – are incredible as well. The Coens paint vivid archetypes, each a fleshed out portrait of the characters we expect to find in the genre – except crazier, dirtier, and meaner than ever, and the narrative’s random bursts of violence and overall sense of dread is perfect build up towards the exciting action climax. On the Coen spectrum the movie falls somewhere between Miller’s Crossing and O Brother Where Art Thou?, tarnished only slightly by their recently-adopted penchant for “down” endings, a staple of every film since No Country for Old Men. While it sometimes works, here the final narrative bridge – which I won’t spoil for you except to say it is aggressively unsentimental – seems forced, existing simply to burst the bubble they’ve spent hours crafting. However, given its placement at the tail end of such a fantastic film, I’m willing to give the brothers the benefit of the doubt – and say it is there to “make us think.” Regardless, True Grit is an instant classic, and you should run out this very instant and see it in theaters – in glorious 2D!
January 13, 2011 No Comments