Thursday, 17 February 2011

True Grit (2010)

True Grit is the story of Mattie Ross, whose father was murdered by the outlaw Tom Chaney. Mattie wants revenge for her father's death, and hires notorious U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (known for taking no quarter, and often shooting before thinking) to hunt down Tom Chaney and have him brought to justice. Justice for Mattie is, of course, death. As well as the rather reluctant, grizzly Cogburn, Mattie encounters LaBoeuf, a Marshall from Texas who also wants to bring in Tom Chaney (though LaBeouf knows him by another pseudonym) for killing a Senator. The three set out, and amidst reservation of a girl riding with them, Tom is finally brought to "Justice".

Though Jeff Bridges (Cogburn) is first billing, this is really Hailee Steinfeld's film. As Mattie, Steinfeld is witty, ballsy, never afraid to argue her case, won't take no for an answer, and she gives a very lively and mature performance without ever coming across as being arrogant. A great performance for a 15 year-old. Jeff Bridges is great, as usual, though doesn't stand out in the same way that Hailee does. Jeff is perfect for the grizzly, recalcitrant, slightly maverick US Marshall. I did worry in Bridges' opening scene in court, that I wasn't going to understand a word he said in the film (much like Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men), but happily that turned out not to be the case; it just took a wee while to get my ear tuned in! Matt Damon is also good, as he usually is, though his role is somewhat smaller and doesn't get the opportunity to shine so much.

This film sees a return of the Coen Brothers to the style that served them so well in No Country for Old Men: great characters, great cast, great screenplay (isn't it always?) and wonderful scenery. Of course one of the reasons for that wonderful scenery is Roger Deakins, the genius cinematographer behind many other visually stunning films (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, Kundun etc etc).

I've never seen the John Wayne version of True Grit (actually I'm not sure I've ever seen a John Wayne film!), but I thoroughly enjoyed this updated version. A great western, more in the mould of Unforgiven than others, but not quite that good. I think I expected it to be more epic, but that is not a criticism, just my over-expectation. A brilliantly shot, superbly acted, humorous revenge story.