i am, oddly, in a position to review the new version of True Grit in its own right. as much as i love the Clint Eastwood Westerns i never really took to John Wayne, and thus haven't seen the original film adaptation. going further, i've never read a single Western novel, so have no idea on what the book both films is based on is like.
the short and sweet spoiler free review is that this is a very, very good film. for those of you who want a bit more detail you can always read on after the film poster, but be warned as beyond this point a *** SPOILER WARNING *** is there for you to note.
the plot premise of True Grit is as simplistic and as straightforward as you'd find at the heart of all good Western movies. a young girl, Mattie Ross, is frustrated with the apathy and lack of effort to capture the man who killed her father. after seeking advice, she employs the US Marshall she is led to believe has "real, true grit", "Rooster" Cogburn, to make sure he's caught and brought to justice.
the man who murdered her father, though, is also wanted for the killing of a US Senator in Texas, and so an on-off, frequently unhappy partnership is formed between the two and a Marshall by the name of Laboeuf.
from this simple premise, a portrait in character study is fleshed out as each charatcer has their "grit" tested to the full by a number of incidents on the hunt for the killer. perhaps not since the equally magnificent Unforgiven has the details of and the hunt for the "bad guy" taken such a distant secondary part in a film in this genre.
at any given time, 25% of entire internet content is dominated by the brilliant, visually striking and attention grabbing style of the Coen brothers. let me not increase that percentage too much, then, but i can confirm that this film is as striking and compelling viewing as anything else they have made thus far.
if the Coen brothers are full worth the praise and awards that they have received thus far for this film, then for the most part the cast are too. in particular, it has to be said, Hailee Steinfeld is simply brilliant as the 14 year old protagonist of the piece. if she does not win the Oscar that she's been nominated for then the Oscars are truly worth nothing. granted, i haven't seen any of her competition, but i would find it very hard indeed to accept that anyone will have delivered such an amazing performance as Ms Steinfeld does here.
as for Jeff Bridges in the celebrated role of "Rooster", well, again i've not seen any of the films he is up against, and an actor doing the "double" in regards of back to back Oscar wins is quite rare. Bridges plays the role with a brutal blend of wit and aggression. if he picks up another statue, i doubt many would argue about the merits.
on the down side, Matt Damon as Lebouef doesn't do as much as he could with the role. whether he was restrained to emphasise the performance of the two mentioned or if he just couldn't be bothered i do not know, but he generates little to endear what should be a character worthy of some interest. likewise, Josh Brolin, who seems to have a contract that states he must be in absolutely every film made at the moment, doesn't really get the margin to do much with his part as the villain of the piece.
True Grit is a treat for those of us who love proper, entertaining Westerns, sitting alongside 3:10 To Yuma and Unforgiven from the last twenty or so years as a film made by people who love the genre for people who love the genre. as an added bonus, it avoids any of the revisionist, sentimental rubbish of a Dances With Wolves. considering the Coen brothers' appetite for making "tricky" and non-standard films, this one is surprisingly linear and easy to get into.
will this win a fair percentage of the 10 Oscars it has been nominated for? no idea, really, as the Oscars these days still seem to be more about awards for political reasons than they are performance. it should win a few, but what it shall certainly do is entertain all of those who watch it.
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