Tuesday, December 28, 2010

True Grit

Hurray another Coen Brothers movie! Actually they are somewhat hit or miss, but they've certainly made some fantastic movies over the years. You'd think this movie would be No Country plus the Big Lebowski but actually its more a straight western that feels like neither. The film is a remake of a John Wayne movie, and like all John Wayne movies is very straightforward. Jeff Bridges who was certainly Lebowski in Tron is quite a bit different in this and just a general unsavory good guy who also happens to be the greatest gunslinger ever or something. I don't think a film having no surprises is bad in and of itself but I guess some unpredictability is required for true greatness. That said this is an outstanding western and I'll be purchasing it once it hits DVD if only to watch it with captions.

Jeff Bridges speaks with a heavy drunken slur for the entire film so its quite hard to understand about half of what he says though it doesn't much affect your understanding of the situation. I was able to get the gist of most of it so its a minor quibble, perhaps masterminded by the Coens in order to ensure DVD sales and rewatching. Bastards. Matt Damon is rather humorous in his role as he blunders his way to catching someone ever so slightly smarter than he is. I didn't really gather any villainous notions of any of the characters, even Josh Brolin. Though I suppose he's just a moron in the context of the film while still being harsh and cruel. Comparitively Gene Hackman is a dual sided character in Unforgiven who's more or less terrifying. Every character speaks in a more era appropriate fashion like a sort of old english play, which makes the film fairly entertaining if only because it doesn't dumb down the language of the characters to a modern set.

The above mentioned way of speaking adds to the wonderful atmosphere. Within about 5 minutes of the film beginning you are immediately engrossed in the atmosphere, just as No Country for Old Men and Fargo placed you in their respective settings. This is the biggest strength of the film and of the Coens in general. (at least in their better films)  I think this film was intentionally made as a throwback and it has already outperformed its budget which is exceptionally rare for a Western in the modern filmmaking world. It has gruesome scenes but somehow still became PG-13 and the plot is relatively lighthearted throughout so it's not the serious "gritty" (no pun intended) feel that No Country gave you. This is a very good Western, not as good as Unforgiven or The Good the Bad and the Ugly but still quite excellent, probably the best Western since Unforgiven.

As previously mentioned this film has taken second fiddle to the same studio's The Fighter in award promotion, which I imagine is not contrary to how the Coens felt about this film. This movie may be superior to the Fighter but it's not an astonishing movie that must win Best Picture at all costs like Inception or No Country for Old Men, so I don't think if this film receives few awards it necessarily makes it inferior to the other films of this most wonderful year in film. However, the female lead of this film Hailee Steinfeld is only 13-14 and puts forth an outstanding performance as Mattie Ross and should definitely win Best Actress, (or Best Supporting Actress though she's in every scene with the most lines) aside from that only Cinematography seems a must win.

From what I've heard this film is vastly superior to the original while staying true to the plot and scenes, which might again excuse it for having a generally straightforward plot throughout with only the actors and scenery themselves being enhanced. The secondary villain is well played even though he's only in a short role, albeit he seems a decent enough fellow so why he is so loathed by Cogburn is mysterious to me. I highly recommend this film for any viewing audience, as it is perhaps the only Coen Brother's film I've seen that is very family friendly, which is quite refreshing in this era of constant debauchery.

Final Grade: 9/10

Note: I woke up about 4 hours ago and played Red Dead for a while so perhaps this film has drawn me more to playing the Western game genre which includes all of 2 games. Also the quality of this post is therefore somewhat deteriorated, alas.

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