Tuesday, January 4, 2011

True Grit | Review

John Wayne's up there right now going, "Oh well....." And Llyod Bridges is going "Ahahahahahahahahah"
Not since Unforgiven have I seen a ballsy Western. Thank you Lord! Thank you! In a decade where I've been stuck watching movies like Twilight, The Notebook, A Walk To Remember and Scott Pilgrim geeky movies; it's nice to finally see a man's man movie again. What? Hey I like testosterone movies to k.
People have got to get their heads straight and realize True Grit isn't a remake of the 1963 John Wayne film. It's a an adaptation of a novel that John Wayne's film was also based on, only this time; Rooster Cogburn isn't just some bumbling drunkard and Mattie Ross isn't Justin Bieber.
The film is about Mattie Ross a 14 year old girl who's father was shot and killed by a drifter whom they took in and showed kindness to. She travels into town seeking revenge by finding the roughest and meanest marshals to go after him. In comes Rooster Cogburn, a trigger-happy, drunkard marshal / marauder who deals with justice in his own unlawful way. The duo is joined by LaBaeouf, another marshal who also intends to bring the drifter into custody.
Who would have thought that the best Coen brothers movie was the most un-Coen brothers movie. True Grit had no trace of any of the Coens' trademarks. No real snappy dialogue exchanges, no exceptionally quirky side characters, no elements of film noir, and no peculiar set pieces with strange camera angles and general weirdness. Instead many people get shot and die. This is a positive change.
The Coen's have come roaring back with this film proving that amidst the mess like No Country For Old Men and A Serious Man, they are great genre directors who really understand story structure, character development and tension building. There is a scene in a cabin where everyone is just sitting and talking for 10 minutes and the tension that they build in this room harkens back to the first scene of Inglorious Basterds where you know that something's going to happen and they build and build until when they finally get to the pay off, it's not that much of a violent scene but it was satisfying to see it nonetheless. Finally, a Coen movie that doesn't lead you down a blind alley for art sake.
Jeff Bridges was great in this. He has produced a reincarnation of John Wayne's undeserving Oscar winning performance and turned it into one of bravura, real grit and with a sense of untold wisdom. If you've seen the original, you know that Jeff Bridges was better than John Wayne in this role. John Wayne looked like he was really drunk the time of shoot. Falling and spitting and making fun of himself. Here we have someone who is a drunk and a marauder but when it comes to doing his job, he knows what he's doing and he's damn badass in it.
I didn't care too much for Matt Damon in here, I really didn't appreciate the Coens using him as the comic relief of the film with him popping out one-liners and jokes every now and then, nothing wrong with it, it's just that I was so prepared to see True Grit as the heavy western I thought it would be and it turned out to be pretty funny at times. it just shattered my whole illusion of finally being able to see a full-on serious western. But the humorous parts weren't superfluous and at the very least, they were the moments in the film where all the characters developed the most. So while I didn't like the Matt Damon comic relief, I recognize that it was essential to the story.
But the star of this movie is Hailee Steinfeld. Everyone's seeing the poster and thinking Jeff Bridges is the star of the movie but really, this film is about her. She's the heart of the story and for a 14 year old actress in the presence of acting greats, she held her own and blew me away.
Mattie Ross kind of reminds me of Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network in a way that she is very anal-retentive and obsessive and incapable of seeing other people's agenda other than her own to the point where she's literally talking Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon into submission until she get's what she wants. Out of all the characters in True Grit, Mattie Ross was the most interesting. And from Hailee Steinfeld I saw a performance well beyond her age with grace, ferocity and also vulnerability. 
I love the fact that she beneath her hardened exterior, she is still a little girl. She is still very flawed and despite what most may believe, she doesn't fully know what she's doing. We get this idea that this girl is so business like and tough but then we get to moments of the film where she is around a pony and the little girl in her comes out completely. You kind of forget how vulnerable this little girl really is which gives you a sense of danger for her as the film progresses.
And just like in any Coen film, the cinematography of True Grit is amazing. While you may not appreciate their inventive camera shots in their normal films,  guess when you put that same style in a period piece like a western, it takes on a new life for it. The tracking shots and the steadycam shots in this are really really good. 
It is no surprise they are releasing True Grit in the heart of Oscar season. The storytelling is amazing, the performances top notch, the costumes realistic, the soundtrack haunting, the cinematography is brilliant and young Hailee Steinfeld's performance is one of the best I've seen this year, second to Natalie Portman in Black Swan.
I can't begin to say how much I recommend True Grit to people. This movie comes so close to cinematic greatness it blows my mind.

RATING: 9/10

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