Review: True Grit


Coen brothers movies can be hit or miss for some but the one thing they always are is memorable. It’s worth reminding everyone up front that this is actually a remake of the 1969 version of True Grit that starred John Wayne, so it’s hard for me to know how much of the credit goes to the Coens, but it’s not hard at all for me to say I absolutely loved this movie. Read on to see how the heck I can claim that this is the Arrested Development of western movies.

Out of all the scripts we’ve seen in 2010, none come even close to the amount of skillful dialogue that True Grit has. Almost the entire movie is talking, yet there was never a moment it lost my attention or adoration. From start to finish this film will talk in circles around you while your grinning head spins trying to enjoy it, but not for too long in fear that you’ll miss out on the next great line of dialogue. As much as I loved the conversations in True Grit, I’m certain I’ll love it even more when I discover countless new gems on the many rewatches it deserves.

With such a deliciously wordy script, Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) is the definitely the precocious and persistent engine that drives every scene’s loquacious interactions. It doesn’t matter who she opens her mouth to, you can be sure there’s a vivid debate to follow. A simple money transaction? Watch her haggle an actor so hard that his sweat looks believable because of how quickly he has to deliver his lines to keep up with her. It’s amazing that she could even handle this as her debut role in the film industry.

As for the plot, it’s your basic western that picks a formula that revolves around needing something or someone, although with a fun spin to the norm. When Mattie asks a local sheriff who the best local bounty hunter is, he lists Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), though he praises LaBoeuf as a skilled and fair Texas ranger. Mattie picks the other, and sets off on a quest to find her father’s killer (Josh Brolin) alongside Rooster, a drunkard who shoots first and asks questions later, of which there are many in one of the opening court scenes that has him explain his way out of how several people unnecessarily died on his last bounty hunt.

As we vicariously tag along on their adventure we visit scenes that aren’t just convincingly fitting for their time period, but instead they also go the extra mile to interact with the characters and plot. Whether it be characters comically walking through food hanging from a ceiling, finding other uses for a chimney, or having a truly unique morgue interaction, scenes themselves often stand out as stars in this spectacular film.

Another thing this movie does amazingly well is turn some cliches on their head to the point that True Grit is the iconoclastic example of how to make something new out of something so stale. The shooting contest between Rooster and LaBoeuf completely caught me off guard and was even milked for so many extra laughs that it shows how deep each scene is in this movie. If this is what happened in the original, then I don’t know why it’s not mimicked more often to this day.

I could go on and on about all the small things I loved on this journey but I’ll leave you to find out for yourself. The last piece of praise I’ll give for True Grit is that I love how it does what all adventure films should do, but often skimp on: use a full 60 seconds to do nothing but show their travels. Let the landscape speak for itself, and let us realize that what we’re watching is completely unedited because there are still ancient and beautiful places left to explore out west. America truly has some breathtaking locations and it’s great that it didn’t rush through them when they wanted to show the passing of time. It’s okay to spend excessively long staying silent and just having us watch them ride across a few horizons. I’d sit and watch this film take me anywhere it wanted to and I really hope everyone reading this gives it that same opportunity to impress them.

Overall Score: 8.95 – Spectacular. (Movies that score between 8.50 and 9.00 are some of the best films its genre has ever created, and fans of any genre will thoroughly enjoy them.)

Glenn Morris:

Overall Score: 6.85 — Coen brothers innovation didn’t thread together the better western that we hoped for. True Grit only finds its dramatic legs in the epilogue, but it’s still well worth watching Jeff Bridges reshape an iconic John Wayne role to be less El Dorado and more El Duderino. You can read his full review here!

Matthew Razak:

Overall Score: 8.90 —  True Grit is easily one of the best westerns made since the time the genre was in its prime. Packed with a fantastic script, great actor and sublimely simple directing there’s no reason to miss this film. You can read his full review here!