Saturday, January 1, 2011

FattMatt: "True Grit" Review

31 years after the original True Grit, the Coen Brothers decide to put out a remake with the same name. Well, its not really a remake. The new film is based on the same novel that the older film is also based on, True Grit by Charles Portis. That's the reason that I didn't bother watching the original film yet before writing this review.

The story centers around Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl who is out to find Tom Chaney, the man that murdered her father, and bring him to justice. To help her, she enlists U.S. Marshall 'Rooster' Cogburn, an old, one-eyed drunk that she has heard is the best man for the job. A man that has true grit.
Let's dig in.

What I liked about the film:
The Acting
14-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld is just great in this film. She stars as Mattie Ross, a character who is also only 14 years old, but is quite mature for her age. She takes on the task of hiring a U.S. Marshall to hunt down the man who killed her father because her mother is basically too much of a girl to do it. Mattie is independent and smart, and can hold a conversation like a grown woman.
I haven't seen Steinfeld act in anything before, but I think she was just right in this role. I can't wait to see what types of projects will be thrown at her from now on.

Jeff Bridges takes on the role of U.S. Marshall Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn. He's a drunk and only has one good eye, wearing an eye patch over the other. He's the one man that Mattie has heard has 'true grit,' and so gets hired for the job.
Bridges does a fantastic job in this role. I think he was just perfect and I can't wait to compare him to John Wayne, who played Rooster in the older film and won his only acting Oscar for it. Bridges really shows us why he has that Oscar, perfectly spitting out that one-liner to get a laugh at just the right tone, and showing us his talent when it comes to darker situations. The man reminds me of Al Pacino in that he can act without saying a word, just using his eyes, or, eye in this case.

Matt Damon does a fine job in the role of LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger who's been pursuing Tom Chaney for months for the murder of a senator. I have a little problem with Matt Damon trying to look older by just wearing a mustache, (I also have the same problem with Leo DiCaprio and Matt Broderick). I think Damon's talent, however, eventually makes me forget what he looks like. He really pulls me into the character later on in the film when he has to talk with a lisp for reasons I won't spoil here. Great job.

Josh Brolin has a much smaller role in the film than I imagined he would, playing the murderous Tom Chaney that everyone is after. He does a fine job, along with Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned, the head of the gang that Chaney ties in with.

The Story
The story is just awesome. I love revenge stories, and this is a great one. It's also just a straight forward Western, which I think is quite unusual of the Coens, who usually tend to experiment a bit more with their films. Although seeing as how they wanted to stick very close to the novel, it's a very tight story that plays out like a good book. Great adaptation.

The Cinematography
Roger Deakins has been with the Coens for most of their films, and once again does a fantastic job portraying the old west, at a few times reminding me of Rio Bravo and other classics. Overall, this is a beautiful movie with perfect shots and gorgeous scenes.

The Soundtrack
The music in the film is done by Carter Burwell, another long-time Coens collaborator. It is based on 19th century church hymns. Typical of the Coens, it wasn't used over-abundantly, but rather just at a few places to emphasize the situation. It sounded strong and hard, not uplifting, but also not sad or depressing.

Now that I've listed all my positives for the movie, I'm going to tell you that I really didn't have any strong dislikes!
The only thing I had trouble with every now-and-then was the editing. It felt forced at some points and didn't really flow well. But only at a few points. Most of the film was fine.

Overall, this film was fantastic. Now, I love the Coens and have seen every one of their films. So it's true that I might have a little bias when it comes to watching this film, but let me just say that it was not exactly what I had thought it would be.
It is very unlike their films in many ways, yet it still felt like a Coens film. Although it has some severe and violent moments, it's not a severe or violent film. It doesn't feel like you're watching a Coen Brothers film until it ends and you reflect upon it. It's hard to explain it. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

1 comment:

Tony Sayegh said...

You noticed Barry Pepper's performance! I love the guy's acting. We only disagree on the editing. I felt it was very strong throughout. Otherwise, we basically praised the film for the same reason. Loved it.