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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Barry Pepper
Jeff Bridges
Matt Damon
Josh Brolin
Hailee Steinfeld.
Directors
Joel Coen
Ethan Coen.
Screenwriters
Ethan Coen
Joel Coen.
Running Time
110 minutes

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True Grit
The Dude bests The Duke in a new Coens masterpiece


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Plot
After hired hand Tom Chaney (Brolin) kills her farmer father and flees, indomitable 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) hires tough, one-eyed US Marshal and heavy-drinking reprobate Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn (Bridges) — a man with “true grit” — to bring him in. Joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Damon), the odd posse head into Indian territory on their manhunt.


Review
True Grit
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The Coen Brothers have done it again, and never more exquisitely. At long last Coen devotees who have yearned to see them make an honest-to-goodness, rootin’ tootin’ Western can attain Movie Nirvana. Okay, No Country For Old Men is a Western, but a cruelly contemporary one; this time out we are taken back to around 1880, when the Choctaw Nation had not yet become Oklahoma, and there are horses and six-guns, outlaws, vigilantes and horse traders, a craggy lawman who is a law unto himself and a Texas Ranger wearing spurs that jingle jangle. True Grit is majestic, not just the stuff of a classic Western but an epic quest with Biblical and mythical tones. And heart.

It was inevitable in the 1960s that Charles Portis’ phenomenally popular True Grit, a wonderful and irresistibly cinematic novel that originated as a serial published in the mainstream American weekly magazine The Saturday Evening Post, should be made quickly into a film. At the time, one couldn’t have hoped for better than veteran director Henry Hathaway, with John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn at last roaring his way to the Oscar for Best Actor. Honestly, though, the 1969 True Grit is not a great film and certainly not as good as the book. It has great, iconic moments, chiefly the “one-eyed fat man” charging four outlaws at a gallop and the indelible final freeze-frame image of Wayne and his favourite horse, Ole Dollar, jumping a fence to immortality. It has Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. But the casting of pop-charting country singer Glen ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ Campbell as Texas Ranger La Boeuf (pronounced La Beef) was someone’s unfortunate concession to ‘trendiness’ with a misguided suggestion of ‘romantic interest’. Kim Darby, though a nice enough young actress, was in her twenties and a mother when she played Mattie Ross with her breasts strapped flat and a tomboy’s crop instead of the neatly austere long plaits indispensible to the dour child conjured by Portis. (It could have been worse: Darby was a late replacement for Mia Farrow.) In any case, the adaptation was turned into Wayne’s rousing showcase.

Joel and Ethan Coen, in returning to the novel, have achieved the same thing they did so brilliantly with Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men; they have been remarkably true to the novel while also rendering it unmistakably Coen-esque. They have mined from Portis every possible wry, dry, absurd or twisted nuance of story, dialogue, incident and character. Crucially they have been mindful that this is Mattie Ross’ story. It is about the most significant experience and relationship of her life, a journey on which a stubborn, resolute child from Yell County, Arkansas, witnessed the depraved violence, the heroism and the loving comradeship of which humanity is capable. The odyssey is recounted by Mattie decades later, with her final observations serving as a wistful coda for the Wild West itself, when its memory and monumental men had diminished into travelling-circus entertainment.

The Dude is his own inimitable man, with no need to try to fit into The Duke’s boots. The man Pauline Kael considered “the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that’s ever lived” invests Rooster with a rascally unpredictability that is signature Jeff Bridges. He’s a hard-drinking, cantankerous, trigger-happy slob at seeming ease with himself. It is all the more affecting, then, to watch his Rooster expose himself emotionally, gradually sufficiently touched by young Mattie’s pluck and grit to confide old sorrows entombed in a shrivelled but still beating heart. The chemistry Bridges achieves with 14 year-old, bright-as-a-button newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is magical. She, whose toughest challenge may have been keeping a straight face and sustaining the character’s sombre demeanour, makes Mattie endearing despite her precocious moral certitude and righteous indignation. From the early scene when she outmanoeuvres a wily horse trader with fast talking, daunting maturity and brain-boggling calculation, the girl has the film wrapped around her little finger. When, left behind by Rooster and La Boeuf (Matt Damon) out of concern and condescension, she plunges her horse into a river and struggles across to catch them, it is hard not to cry at Mattie’s courage. Later on, there is no question of not crying.

The language is tirelessly amusing and charming for its sadly obsolete, curiously poetic elegance, a reminder — like the startlingly lyrical letters poor farm boys wrote home from Civil War battlefields — that isolated 19th century American rural folk often learned their ABCs from the one book every home had, the King James Bible. Not one contraction is to be heard in the film, and strong insults are along the order of, “The love of decency does not abide in you!”

Bridges, Josh Brolin and even the unseen J. K. Simmons as the voice of the family lawyer, J. Noble Daggett, invoked by Mattie as her trump card in her brisk business negotiations, are returning Coen hands. Damon fits gracefully into the Coen company as the cocky galoot who attaches himself to Mattie’s undertaking with a rival, prior claim to the fugitive Chaney, wanted in Texas for the murder of a senator, and a career-maker for La Boeuf if he brings him back. Barry Pepper is a revolting treat as outlaw ‘Lucky’ Ned Pepper (no relation!), and gets the legendary scene, taunting Rooster with “Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!”, which as Last Words go surely qualify as Famous. Yet again a Coen cast is full of the most wonderful faces, from the stars to the background players and extras, from three miscreants about to be hanged to two small Indian boys unfortunate enough to be in Rooster Cogburn’s peripheral vision and reach when he’s in a mood. The film is full of small details that are gems, like the telling shot of La Boeuf’s dandy spurs or the fantastically surreal entrance of a character who happens to be dressed entirely in a bearskin — head included — and proudly explains he practices dentistry and has procured the corpse draped across his saddle from an Indian “for two dental mirrors and a bottle of expectorant”.

British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who by now is collaboratively a third Coen brother, sure makes purdy pictures, and uses the novel’s winter setting to glorious advantage. Cogburn’s last line — the cry, “I have grown old!” — reverberates with grief, rage, frustration and defeat across the most majestic of snowy, starry, silent nights. Composer Carter Burwell, who has scored every one of the Coens’ films, delicately incorporates the late 19th century hymn Leaning On The Everlasting Arms as a recurring theme (it was sung by Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter; is this a homage?). That song of praise begins with the words, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine.” Which neatly describes the film.


Verdict
Terrific: tough, exciting, funny, gorgeous and bewitchingly acted, this is darn close to perfection.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for True Grit
Empire Star Rating

Very good, not quite great

Crappy CGI rattle snakes, rushed climax, confused tone. Some sporadic classic 5 star moments but too inconsisent to be considered a "great" movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blindlemonpie at 19:14, 07 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: ITS A SAD REALITY WHERE FILMAKERS LIKE THE COENS AND SCORSESE FOR EXAMPLE CAN NEVER EXPECT TO GET A 2 STAR REVIEW BECAUSE OF THEIR REPUTATION!

Yep, Shutter Island was so so.... However, I was a bit impatient with True Grit. Jeff B. is simply awesome but he seems to play similar sort of caracters lately. Needless to say that I had a problem understanding he's words. He mumbles alot.... After all, he is a Dude!!! A ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by AlanCJ at 18:21, 07 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Emyr Thy King When the three criminals are hanged, they all get to say their piece except the native American. Later on, the Marshall kicks the two native American boys, one of them twice. Clearly they were meant to be humourous but it just came across as rather cheap. eah, I picked up on this. When the native American gets ignored, the cinema laughed, as I guess it was supposed to be a joke to show how they were treated in those times, but as they are /i] treated like that I foun... More

Posted by jonson at 17:36, 07 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

"I walked out after 30 minutes. How can the Coens make a hard edged masterpiece like No Country for Old Men and then dull pointless shit like this? So their worst movie is their most successful at the box office. Oscar nominated? Cinema is fucked, but that's not going to be all I'm afraid. Lack of Hollywood talent, subservient media outlets, and gormless domestic and international sheep masses have let it happen." Yawn. How arogant and self absorbed you must be, that when you find yourself... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 09:59, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Emyr Thy King L: adambatman82 L: Emyr Thy King L: adambatman82 As mentioned before Hailee Steinfeld's lack of a public presence is truly baffling. A marketing campaign laden with ageism at best and sexism at worst. It's a similar affair over at the Academy, with Steinfeld relegated to the supporting category, revealing that the matters of sexism and ageism are still rife within the Hollywood elite. It's nothing short of disgraceful.h come off it, she's received re... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 12:37, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: adambatman82 L: Emyr Thy King L: adambatman82 As mentioned before Hailee Steinfeld's lack of a public presence is truly baffling. A marketing campaign laden with ageism at best and sexism at worst. It's a similar affair over at the Academy, with Steinfeld relegated to the supporting category, revealing that the matters of sexism and ageism are still rife within the Hollywood elite. It's nothing short of disgraceful.h come off it, she's received recognition for her performa... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 12:02, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Emyr Thy King L: adambatman82 As mentioned before Hailee Steinfeld's lack of a public presence is truly baffling. A marketing campaign laden with ageism at best and sexism at worst. It's a similar affair over at the Academy, with Steinfeld relegated to the supporting category, revealing that the matters of sexism and ageism are still rife within the Hollywood elite. It's nothing short of disgraceful.h come off it, she's received recognition for her performance regardless of whet... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:52, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

L: Larry of Arabia There's the "I spent £9.20 on something I didn't enjoy" kind of bitter and then there's the "Jeff Bridges took a shit in my cornflakes" kind of bitter, though. There seems to be more of the latter in evidence here.ctually it was of equine proportions, affectionately termed 'the Big Lebowski'. ... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 11:44, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

There's the "I spent £9.20 on something I didn't enjoy" kind of bitter and then there's the "Jeff Bridges took a shit in my cornflakes" kind of bitter, though. There seems to be more of the latter in evidence here. ... More

Posted by Larry of Arabia at 11:29, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: BobM70 Okay, it is pretty clear you're not loving this, King. But I think your disliking makes your post also a little bitter. I have seen many westerns (hundreds) and the things I mentioned are really outstanding in True Grit. The costume design is very good. Every single hat, boot, coat or spur is spot on. It's realistic, without being over the top hollywood-western. But is isn't position-dirty . The language IS remarkable. They speak a tongue that is late 19th century an... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 11:13, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

Okay, it is pretty clear you're not loving this, King. But I think your disliking makes your post also a little bitter. I have seen many westerns (hundreds) and the things I mentioned are really outstanding in True Grit. The costume design is very good. Every single hat, boot, coat or spur is spot on. It's realistic, without being over the top hollywood-western. But is isn't position-dirty . The language IS remarkable. They speak a tongue that is late 19th century and not late 20th ... More

Posted by BobM70 at 08:15, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Felix Shows how much you know about 'Westerns' and the era then. LeBoeuf wears spurs because he is from Texas, as you noticed no doubt, most of the other cowboys in the film dont. honestly couldn't give a toss, son. As you noticed no doubt, my point was about the the things one would normally expect to see in a 'western' film. Given it was a period film one would expect such things as "e (as spoken in the novel) is fittingly old fashioned. The setting, the setdesign, the locations autom... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 20:24, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

Saw True Grit last night and loved it. Although the pacing was fairly slow I was entertained throughout due to the humour that peppered the film all the way through. I was totally drawn in to the girl's story and loved her cocky confidence. The only downside would be that a) there wasn't enough gunfights and b) Brolin and Pepper were under used. But apart from that a solid 9/10 for me. ... More

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 20:12, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Emyr Thy King L: BobM70 The uage (as spoken in the novel) is fittingly old fashioned. The setting, the setdesign, the locationsd the photography are absolute brilliance. The story is fittingly restrained allthough slow-paced. I think have to see this a few times more coming years and who knows it will grow on me, even more.You'd expect any competent writer and researcher for a film to include these things into a period film such as " GritIt's no more remarkable than remembe... More

Posted by Felix at 17:15, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

Saw this last night, went with 6 mates. 3 thought it was boring, 3 of us thought it was good, most of us wish there had been subtitles joyed it, not their best film by a long way, but entertaining all the same, Mattie and Col Stonehill's exchanges being the highlight for me. Hailee Steinfeld has quite rightly been getting the plaudits, I thought her performance was excellent. Just one thing, what was the Bear Man all about? Anyway, I'd give it 4 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 15:05, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: adambatman82 As mentioned before Hailee Steinfeld's lack of a public presence is truly baffling. A marketing campaign laden with ageism at best and sexism at worst. It's a similar affair over at the Academy, with Steinfeld relegated to the supporting category, revealing that the matters of sexism and ageism are still rife within the Hollywood elite. It's nothing short of disgraceful.h come off it, she's received recognition for her performance regardless of whether she would have won the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 13:41, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Oh, go on

L: BatSpider I'll give it another one star. There you go. A shitter film couldn't deserve better. e bothered to explain why it sucks, enough time in the 30 mins before I walked out. Movie 4 pussies prolly sums it up. First Tron Legacy, now this. Is Jeff Bridges going on a Nic Cage - type trash run? And so you lose. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 07:24, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Oh, go on

L: BatSpider I'll give it another one star. There you go. A shitter film couldn't deserve better. Can't be bothered to explain why it sucks, wasted enough time in the 30 mins before I walked out. Movie 4 pussies prolly sums it up. First Tron Legacy, now this. Is Jeff Bridges going on a Nic Cage - type trash run? f you hate it so much then why do you keep going on about it? Get over it. You don't even have a valid opinion given that you only saw the first 30 minutes of the damn thing. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 01:13, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


Oh, go on

I'll give it another one star. There you go. A shitter film couldn't deserve better. Can't be bothered to explain why it sucks, wasted enough time in the 30 mins before I walked out. Movie 4 pussies prolly sums it up. First Tron Legacy, now this. Is Jeff Bridges going on a Nic Cage - type trash run? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 20:44, 02 March 2011 | Report This Post


Oh, go on

I'll give it another one star. There you go. A shitter film couldn't deserve better. Can't be bothered to explain why it sucks, wasted enough time in the 30 mins before I walked out. Movie 4 pussies prolly sums it up. First Tron Legacy, now this. Is Jeff Bridges going on a Nic Cage - type trash run? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 20:44, 02 March 2011 | Report This Post


Certainly nice to watch,but also an example of a film that should have been much longer.3 hours would have been great.Lacks in the score department.Matt Damon once again like watchin Bourne in fancy dress. Barry Pepper is superb,how good would it be to have hime play a character like this again soon! Def not a 5 star film though! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alonsomosley at 18:22, 02 March 2011 | Report This Post


Excellent

What can be said apart from the fact that 'True Grit' does indeed have True Grit ? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SammyL95 at 19:50, 01 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: They've Done It Again.

Strange film this is. I have seen the hathaway version some 20 years back. I remember it a fine film with Wayne in a great role. But nothing spectacular. This was my initial reaction after seeing the Coens version. Not spectacular. A bit underwhelmed. That's not to say this is a bad film. On the contrary: it's a superb piece of cinema. I am a huge Coen fan. Why? Because these fellows understand cinema like no other filmmaker does. I remember seeing The Man Who Wasn't There in the thea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BobM70 at 13:33, 01 March 2011 | Report This Post


They've Done It Again.

The Coen's have added another masterpiece to the already amazing C.V.. The cast are electrifying with Bridges easily filling the shoes which John Wayne and Steinfeld in particular pulls you into her story and lighting up this beautiful re-telling of Charles Portis story, The Coens best since No Country for Old Men. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pennick at 22:44, 28 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

Great film, deserving of all the praise and awards it receives. Bridges is fantastic as the mumbling, dunkerd Rooster Cogburn and the relationship he has with Mattie isn't conventional, but is still touching and heartfelt. Hailee Steinfeld is the real star, and it's difficult to believe that she is only 14! Check out the full review at the thgoodreview.co.uk http://thegoodreview.co.uk/2011/02/true-grit/ ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robbycripwell86 at 11:48, 27 February 2011 | Report This Post


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