Sunday, 27 November 2011

True Grit

Lowdown: A young and determined Wild West girl hires a marshal to bring her father’s killer to justice.
I greatly enjoyed watching True Grit. Between its fine display of acting, well developed mix of flawed and eccentric characters, and mesmerizing Western style cinematography it was easy to realize this is high quality cinema. Yet I couldn’t put my hand on what it is, exactly, that characterizes this film. Then the end credits came up, proclaiming True Grit to be a Coen Brothers film. And it dawned on me: the best way to describer what True Grit is like is to mention it is a Coen Brothers’ film. So there you have it; you don't need to read the rest of this review.
If you must insist, though, then I will tell you that True Grit is a Western. It follows a young girl, Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) whose father was murdered by one of his own employees. The killer had fled justice, and with the wife lacking resolve it is up to the daughter – our young girl of a heroine – to sort things out. Sorting out she does, her way; and this time, it's personal.
Mattie manages to bargain her way through her father’s financial commitments and moves on to secure the services of the notorious marshal Rooster Cogburn, a man of true grit (the exceptional Jeff Bridges). Their plan is to venture together into the Indian reserve where the killer is hiding and bring him to justice (as well as give Rooster his money). However, Rooster doesn’t need the girl by his side at such a dangerous environment; he prefers LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), a Texas ranger hunting the same killer for past crimes.
It doesn’t take long for Mattie to show us all who’s got true grit where it counts. Rooster is a slave to the bottle, and LaBoeuf talks the talk but doesn’t really walk the walk. Both are your typical useless Coen Brothers characters, whereas the girl is the non contaminated, determined one who gets things done.
True Grit has its slower moments, but still: between it being so well made, and the actors – all of them - giving such a fine display, I greatly enjoyed it. Since Westerns are pretty rare nowadays, True Grit is to be very welcomed.
P.S. This 2010 version of True Grit is a remake of the 1969 True Grit starring John Wayne. I haven’t seen the original, or at least don’t recall seeing the original, and therefore cannot compare the two.
Technical assessment:
Roger Deakins’ wonderful cinematography alone justifies watching True Grit on Blu-ray and nothing else; it is truly exceptional. That cinematography also means that one can witness the occasional grain and unnatural feel, but it’s pretty clear these are intentional.
Things are much less spectacular in this Blu-ray’s sound department, where everything is front-centered and, in general, nothing much exciting happens.
Best scene: I really liked True Grit’s opening scene and the way we are presented to the small Wild West town’s world where the film starts. Did I mention the cinematography?
Overall: A fine, if typically Coen eccentric film, that’s drifting between 3.5 and 4 out of 5 stars.

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