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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

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

RE: COEN BROTHERS - WESTERN - BRIDGES

It seems obligatory for 'true' film fans to like the Coen Brothers, but I personally don’t like their films much at all, with their quirky characters, reams of ‘clever’ dialogue, unfunny ‘humour’,’ funny’ violence  and ‘cool’ irony. To be honest they mostly bore me senseless, although to be fair I’ve only seen about half of them.  Against the odds though, they don’t mess up True Grit, though it would be hard to totally screw up a story like this, which is partially a coming of a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:45, 26 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: COEN BROTHERS - WESTERN - BRIDGES

I thought it was great but maybe not up there with my favourite Coen films (Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Big Lebowski...) I'd give it an 8/10 rather than the 9s and 9.5s for the above. Script was razor-sharp and the performances uniformly great, Matt Damon a particular surprise in a relatively thankless supporting role spent in The Duke's shadow. Couldn't agree more with one of the posters above that Steinfeld isn't talked about in conjunction with awards, thought she was su... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MattTheBadger at 12:47, 25 February 2011 | Report This Post


COEN BROTHERS - WESTERN - BRIDGES

Whats not to like? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 19:46, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


COEN BROTHERS - WESTERN - BRIDGES

Whats not to like? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 19:46, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


Wow. Just wow.

This is a truly outstanding film. From the cinematography through to the sublime score and then to the wonderful acting on show, this is as perfect a western - or as perfect a film - you're likely to get. Thank god for the Coen brothers. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Boromirs Redemption at 10:50, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: BatSpider L: Gretzky L: simonmckergan1 L: BatSpider L: oneangryman The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fa... More

Posted by Gretzky at 13:00, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

Excellent review Adam, although I personally feel Stenfield was roped into the supporting actress category simply because she'll have a better chance of winning - but it is without question her story. Also, the Night of the Hunter observation is spot on..... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 05:41, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

The story of Mattie Ross, a young girl on the hunt for her fathers killer, True Grit first made its way to the big screen in 1969. Based on the Charles Portis novel of the same name, True Grit is as much about the tonalities and intricacies of revenge, perseverance and justice as it is about the adventurous journey into the dangerous land that forms the location of the films setting. The material proves to be the perfect source for the Coen Brothers, who made waves within the Western genre in ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 20:50, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

That isn't Pee Wee Herman, that is Moira Kelly. You think it is a poor film many, many more like it. Personally I could take it or leave it, out of curiosity why do you think it is so bad? The acting, the plot, the cinematography or just not to your tastes as your earlier post seems to imply which doesn't automatically make it bad? ... More

Posted by sanchia at 19:49, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: Gretzky L: simonmckergan1 L: BatSpider L: oneangryman The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fantastic performance... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 19:41, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: simonmckergan1 L: BatSpider L: oneangryman The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fantastic performances, brilliantly... More

Posted by Gretzky at 09:48, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: BatSpider L: oneangryman The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fantastic performances, brilliantly directed, shockingly te... More

Posted by simonmckergan1 at 20:19, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Holy Grit it's good

L: oneangryman The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fantastic performances, brilliantly directed, shockingly tense and just an abs... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 19:24, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


Holy Grit it's good

The Coen Brothers have said that this is not a remake of the 1969 True Grit; they�ve said that it�s their version of the book. But for arguments sake I�m going to say that we have a remake better than the original. I know it�s only February but this is film of the year so far for me and it�ll take some beating. True Grit is a powerfully moving western with some fantastic performances, brilliantly directed, shockingly tense and just an absolute joy to watch. T... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by oneangryman at 18:47, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1403865/]True Grithe new Coen brothers film is a western in wich Jeff Bridges tries to find the killer (Josh Brolin) of the father of a young girl. Together with the small but well-spoken Mattie Ross (the big screen debut of Hailee Steinfeld) he`s tries to find the man. The two make for an interesting couple, wich is very well acted by Bridges as well as Steinfeld. Especially the latter is excellent, it looks like (even though this is only her debut) as if she has ne... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 19:37, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Shit

I enjoyed it, but as much as I'd like to have done. I have to say I was overall disappointed with this, simply because the Coen Brothers made it. Their filmography is so excellent, it makes a fairly ok film like this look poor when compared to masterpieces like Fargo, Big Lebowski and Millers Crossing. Saying that, compared to what else there is out there at the moment, I'd still recommend it. Just not 5 stars. It was engaging, funny in places, brilliantly acted (especially the girl). The ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 00:05, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


True Shit

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. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 00:36, 19 February 2011 | Report This Post


GIVE HIM THE OSCAR.....

and yeah I know he already won the blessed thing last year...... but who cares? Jeff bridges is God in this movie. Y-y-y-you c-c-c-an k-k-k-keep the k-k-k-kings s-s-s-speech and c-c-c-c-colin f-f-f-fuckin f-f-f-f-firth..... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 18:55, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

I think it was a hugely enjoyable film, one that i would happily sit through time & time again, but i've got to agree with many of the others here, it's no 5 star movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jackie Boy at 18:28, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Bit of a weird one...

I also find myself unsure of what I thought of this. It certainly lacks the charm and humour of the original, but its a good story and the acting is great, especially Matt Damon. The problem I have is why did they bother? This was a film made for The Duke, not The Dude, and that is why the Cogburn character is much older than the one in the book; it had to match Wayne's age at the time (61). The equivalent scenes from both movies are usually better in the original, especially the horse trading,... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by GCH at 11:57, 17 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Who else didn't enjoy the ending...

Gotta say this was an exellent retelling of Portis novel. The Actors were all fantastic but Steinfield in her big screen debut outstanding. Don't think i'll be looking any farther than her for next years Empires Best Newcomer. 9/10 ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 12:47, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


Who else didn't enjoy the ending...

A well good and beautifully shot film. the performances were all good, its amazing Hailee steinfeld is only 14 because she was the star of the show. josh brolin is funny, jeff bridges is excellent even though you can barely understand him and it has a feel of a classical story. But, this is a coens film and so i wanted to see some more violence, oddness and i din't expect and ending like this one. this would be a five star review if the ending didn't leave me a bit annoyed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by deza2525 at 11:36, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

It says a lot about the Coens when they're able to make such an excellent film, yet I can still feel disappointed about the resulting outcome.   Aesthetically, there is absolutely nothing wrong with 'True Grit.' The cast are all top notch; Bridges channels his turns in both 'The Big Lebowski' and 'Crazy Heart' with the added touch of a ruthless killer to boot. Matt Damon again continues to impress as a character actor, giving the pompous Texas Ranger Le boeuf a level ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 00:47, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: True Grit

I just come back from watching it, didn't think it was all that. A tad too plodding for my tastes, it picked up at around the half way mark, but up until that point I was fairly bored with it all. It didn't help that the girl in the main lead didn't actually impress me that much. I've read all these reviews stating how amazing she was, yet other than the fact she could robotically recite back some fairly long and complex lines of dialogue, I didn't see anything special in the acting depart... More

Posted by captainrentboy at 19:15, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Truly Freakin' Amazing!

I didn't love it, for some reason. It'd be unfair to call it 'No Country Lite' as the tone (and of course era) is completely different, but it was hard not to think the whole affair was a little too slight. I found myself shrugging ever so slightly when it was over. ... More

Posted by hatebox at 22:17, 14 February 2011 | Report This Post


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