True Grit (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

Review byMatthew Turner10/02/2011

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Hugely enjoyable, pleasingly old-fashioned (and Oscar nominated) Western that gets everything right, thanks to a superb script, impeccable direction and a trio of terrific performances from Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by the Coen brothers, True Grit is taken from the novel by Charles Portis, though since the classic John Wayne Western was closely adapted from the same source, it's essentially also a remake of the 1969 film, despite Joel and Ethan's protests to the contrary. Hailee Steinfeld stars as feisty 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who recruits boozy, one-eyed US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help track down her father's killer, outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Despite Mattie's objections, Cogburn is joined by preening Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who's pursuing Chaney for a different crime. However, when they try and set out without her, Mattie proves she has true grit of her own by riding her horse through a river in order to catch them up. The three then head deep into Indian territory, believing Chaney to have joined an outlaw gang headed by Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper).

The Good
The performances are wonderful: Steinfeld anchors the film with an assured and deservedly Oscar-nominated turn that's full of surprises; the scene where she reveals her horse-trading skills (“I admire your sand, Missy ...”) is an early highlight that gives a taste of the delights to come. Damon is equally good, while Bridges (also Oscar nominated) is on career-best form, deliberately mumbling his lines (it sounds annoying, but it works) and somehow managing to fuse elements of both The Big Lebowski's The Dude and John Wayne's Oscar-winning performance into something simultaneously distinct and yet comfortingly familiar.

The script is frequently funny and crackles with delicious dialogue, most of which actually comes direct from the source novel, despite sounding like classic Coen Brothers material. It's also packed with memorable scenes while maintaining a pleasingly old-fashioned, traditional Western feel throughout.

The Great
In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of regular Coens collaborator Roger Deakins, and there's a terrific score from Carter Burwell that subtly incorporates the hymn from The Night of the Hunter.

Worth seeing?
True Grit is a treat from start to finish and hog heaven for fans of the Coens and/or Westerns, thanks to a wonderful script, superb direction and terrific performances. Make no mistake, this is one of the best films – if not THE best film - of the year. Highly recommended.

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True Grit (M)
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Content updated: 17/11/2019 22:31

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