Synopsis: True Grit is a powerful story of vengeance and valor set in an unforgiving and unpredictable frontier where justice is simple and mercy is rare.
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), is determined to avenge her father’s blood by capturing Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who shot and killed him for two pieces of gold. Just fourteen, she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn (Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges), a one-eyed, trigger-happy U.S. Marshall with an affinity for drinking and hardened Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Academy Award Winner Matt Damon) to track the fleeing Chaney. Despite their differences, their ruthless determination leads them on a perilous adventure that can only have one outcome: retribution.
True Grit (2010) 8.0
I know that this is out of character, but I don’t have that much to say about ‘True Grit’. It’s a really well-made film filled with good performances. It’s got a pretty good story and solid script. I enjoyed watching it, even though I wasn’t enraptured by it.
So let me start by making two admissions:
1. I do not like westerns very much. For some inexplicable reason I find many of them interchangeable and fairly bland. There are exceptions, of course (the Sergio Leone ones, for instance), but the Far West setting impedes my appreciation of the film and usually colours my rating.
2. I have not read the original novel nor seen the John Wayne adaptation.
At least I had the advantage of seeing the film without the distractions of trailers, synopses, reviews, or the aforementioned other versions of this story. The only information that I had to go on was that Jeff Bridges followed up his Academy Award-winning turn in ‘Crazy Heart’ with even more Oscar buzz due to this one.
Beyond this, I knew little about the cast, crew, the story, or anything else, really. But I liked it. I can’t explain quite why I like it, and I would recommend it, even though it’s a western. There’s just something about it, something that differentiates this from run-of-the-mill cowboy flicks.
Maybe the appeal was its tale of revenge. I tend to like those (perhaps as some sort of wish-fulfilment fantasy to make up for the self-imposed restraint that my moral code and personal ethics demand?). So you’ll find that revenge stories are frequently rated higher than usual. Call them 90-mins exorcisms if you must.
‘True Grit’ tells the tale of a girl who hires an aging Marshall to avenge the death of her father. The girl, Mattie, is played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who I found very waxy at first, but displayed much more emotion later on. It took me a good 15-20 minutes to warm up to her, truth be told, so I found that the first part of the film dragged along a little.
However, in the end, Mattie was the only character that I actually liked; she had gumption and smarts, and wasn’t prey to typical “little girl” moments (you know… weeping and needing a man to help her ). It’s a feminist’s dream come true, really, because it’s a solid, well-rounded character that’s not trying to be “cool”, “glamourous” or “bad @$$” (ex: ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Lara Croft’).
The rest of the main cast, however, were a mixed bag:
– Jeff Bridges played his part very well, but I had some serious difficulty getting through his gruff slur. After a short while, I had no other choice but to put the subtitles on. As distracting as they may be, better this than not understanding what was going on.
– Matt Damon was alright, but I was neither impressed by him nor his dubious character. I don’t know if the problem was the actor or the role, but something about him was off-putting. Thankfully, he’s not in the film the whole time, but he’s there often enough to sour the mix some.
– Josh Brolin’s character is essential to the film, and yet he has very little screen time. For that short stint, he’s rather good, though. But I wonder how it is that he’s one of the three featured names on the box when Steinfeld is the main character – and she isn’t even listed. Hurray for Hollywood!
I don’t really have anything else to say about ‘True Grit’. The adventure/manhunt was fine, but hardly thrilling, and everything was put together professionally. There were a few moments of shoddy editing and the music didn’t do much for me, but, otherwise this film holds up throughout.
Personally, I liked it enough to give it a 7.75 (my enjoyment was better than average, but only just so). However, I think it would be more fair to give it an 8.0.