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True Grit  (DVD)
Member Name: goldenbat666
True Grit  (DVD)
Advantages: Lots of depth with characterisation, fantastic performances, authentic atmosphere
Disadvantages: Not as unique as you might think, and sometimes Bridges' mumbling can be hard to understand fully
Wayne, being the handsome man that he was even in his 60's, played the role of Rooster Cogburn, an eye patched gunslinger talented in his hunting and shooting skills, with a certain level of cleanliness and class. Not a hint of that exists with Jeff Bridges, who interprets the same character in a more realistic way - he's a dirty old homeless lone gunman who hits the endless supply of whiskey in the Wild West morning, day and night. He spends half his life on horseback most likely without any change of clothing and washing himself must be a rare luxury. So it is odd and slightly worrying to see this trigger-happy, care-free Western lad paired up with a 14-year-old girl. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a sharp, bright young girl who is looking to avenge her father's death, hires Cogburn, solely on his reputation alone. Cogburn is the nastiest of the bounty hunters and Mattie wants the very best to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Cogburn, the laid-back sloth that he is, doesn't accept the offer easily. But the persistent girl is not willing to give up any time soon and Cogburn figures it would be easier on him to go along with her little quest.
And off they go - they are also joined by LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), a Texas Ranger with his own reasons to find Chaney and bring him to justice. This does not go down so well with Mattie, who wants Chaney convicted and ultimately executed for the crime of murdering her father. But for the time being, they decide to work together towards capturing Chaney, who, as rumour has it, has joined the gang of Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper).
Steinfeld, a young actress (she was 13 when she made the film) whose steadfast, head-strong characteristic is both admirably and consistently portrayed, is much more effective in the role of Mattie Ross than Kim Darby ever was in the original. The entire film revolves around her, her own perspectives and "True Grit" is really her story to tell. Even the introduction which describes the death of her father, and how she came about to embark on her journey, in contrary to the original which shows the entire sequence in flashback, is summed up neatly and briefly in an informative voiceover of an older Mattie. There is one extremely amusing scene where the tiny Mattie verbally takes down on a salesman at least four times her age and walks away with enough money to fund her journey. Steinfeld intelligence and determination in her eyes and although her character stays mostly the same throughout the film, she spews out the complex dialogue of the script with perfect precision and for such a young and inexperienced actress to convincingly play opposite Bridges and Damon as one of the central characters to the plot is remarkable.
Mattie may be eager to exact her vengeance on Chaney, but the film never tries to mask her inevitable weaknesses and vulnerability. The sight of a dead body hanging from a tree is absolutely nothing new to Cogburn, he's shot at over fifteen men we're told, but to Mattie it comes as quite a shock. She may know how to shoot a gun, but her body cannot handle the gun recoil. She has enough verbal skills to make Damon's LaBoeuf look like a complete buffoon, but the dark forests, rough mountains, and harsh climate is no place for a girl her age. Was she too rash and impulsive in her decision to hunt down Chaney? She is fourteen after all, and her unwavering sense of justice may be admirable at times but it also shows her naivety. This is the first time Mattie is venturing out into the wild, and the dark side of humanity she witnesses certainly makes an impact on her.
Bridges also gives a stand-out performance in which his aged, filthy appearance immediately embodies years of "gritty" work and corrupt, tortured soul. The low, growling, mumbling voice of Bridges emphasises this even more, and sometimes his slurred pronouncements are difficult to comprehend. Western cowboy accents are never easy to pick up fully, more so when the character delivering the dialogue is supposed to be a drunk. But despite the small hiccups Bridges has no trouble getting the emotions across, and as his connection with Mattie grows stronger and deeper, he becomes more caring, though he would never admit it, and his warmer side is never shown too obviously or with unnecessary coy sentimentality.
Rich, snappy dialogue is something the Coen brothers are famous for and they achieve just that with "True Grit." There is sarcasm and plenty of humour when required, the trio's journey is full of playful banter between three very different characters, villains are given their share of menacing words to yell, and the touching moments are just as skillfully written in with warmth. The script is never awkward, but the one factor that is lacking is the usual quirkiness and odd eccentricities the Coen brothers' films are usually filled with. This is a straight-forward Western, and is not quite unique or special enough for someone to recognise this as a Coen brothers' film. As can be expected there is nothing to fault technically - the casting is exceptionally done, the soundtrack, which contains simple instrumental variations of famous gospels, perfectly fits the well-paced, atmospheric mood, the cinematography can be chilling out in the wild, but can often use the tender colours of fire and dusty surroundings of close and intimate sets of the Western world to create a stirring ambiance. It's just a little unexpected, but not at all a let-down.
Summary: Another fascinating, gritty Western from the Coens - well worth your time