'True Grit' Synopsis, Guide And Reviews
UPDATE: We asked you to give your reviews, and we got a record number of responses. Thanks to all the writers -- here are just a few of the many, many great reviews you submitted.
...All of that lofty consideration can go and hang, really, because sandwiched between a prologue and epilogue of melancholy rumination, True Grit is a rollicking, picturesque, old-fashioned adventure tale. It has all the shootouts, rattlesnakes, outlaws, close scrapes, bad teeth and heroism you'd ever hope to see, anchored by three performances that are so effortlessly delightful that it's easy to ignore the creeping darkness beneath all the fun.
...The Coens have crafted a Western of rare elegance and excitement. It's slow to start, but by design; as Mattie gathers the forces of justice, the pace tightens and the danger builds to an often shocking pitch. At the halfway point, there is a scene of startling savagery, and the film never lets up. The violence, fleeting though it is, stretches the bounds of a PG-13 rating. It is, nevertheless, a perfect film for teenagers who think Michael Bay films are the only real action cinema. After watching True Grit, they might investigate Kurosawa, John Ford, Orson Welles.
My wife and I watched the 1969 original version yesterday at home, and the Coen brothers' version today in the theater. We had seen neither film before, so this was to be our immersion in all things True Grit. It was a fun way to spend two afternoons.
I think the Coen brothers' version is superior in every way. The acting by Bridges and Steinfeld is far better than Wayne and Darby; I thought Darby was particularly weak in the original. Matt Damon's portrayal of the Texas Ranger was much more nuanced and three dimensional than Glen Campbell's (shocking, I know...) I was afraid the new version would be too dark, but it still has a bit of humor and sentimentality, with a light touch the original lacked. The voice over narration of the new version also works to start the story off and wrap it up at the end.
The Coen brothers's film will be one to watch more than once, the original not so much.
That being said, I wish I would have enjoyed this more. I don't know if 19th century Americans shunned contractions but any time any character spoke (I will NOT, I canNOT, I do NOT) it took me right out of the narrative and into the Coen brothers' writing workshop. Every detail is for effect, and nothing is presented as if it just IS. Many people seem to enjoy that about Coen movies but their technique just gets in the way. Everything that every character said seemed "written." And each time I heard Miss Steinfeld speak, I thought of Fairuza Balk in "Return to Oz." She is only 14 and I don't want to come down hard on her but her performance was not as resolute as other reviews led me to believe it was.
No character interacted ... it was is if they were reciting in front of each other.
My interest began to wane during the Damon/Bridges shooting contest scene. I could go on but I'm just not getting what audiences see in the Coen brothers.
A western action film isn't your usual type of Christmas weekend film, but then again, this isn't your usual type of western, and the Coen Brothers aren't your usual type of directors, either. They took on adapting a 1968 novel by Charles Portis -- insisting it was a novel adaptation, not a remake of the 1969 big screen version that won John Wayne his only best actor Oscar -- and, with the help of some true talent, made a brand new legacy for 'True Grit.'
The western action flick mixes in a surprisingly high level of subtle comedy with its gritty realism to create a wild west all its own. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and precocious 14-year old newcomer Haliee Steinfeld star in this memorable adventure.
Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with "true grit," Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn (Bridges). Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her "grit" tested.
Matt Soergel, Florida Times-Union:
It's the best Western in years and one of the best movies of the year, a rousing adventure that's also sneakily comic, with humor that rises from the sharply drawn characters and the dialogue they spout. And how wonderfully they spout!
Ethan and Joel must have relished the chance to have Jeff Bridges, the Dude in their "Big Lebowski," give his ramshackle take on John Wayne's hard-drinking Rooster Cogburn. But you can also see what must have attracted them to the story at least as much: the words.
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com:
Now, it's also true that the Coens are coming at this classic western yarn from a 21st-century perspective that might misleadingly be called "ironic," but it's better not to get hung up on that. Let's put it this way: Like most Coen films, "True Grit" works on multiple levels and will reward repeat viewings. It's an impressive widescreen spectacle set on the 19th-century American frontier and built around a memorably ferocious performance by 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld.
Colin Colvert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
In "True Grit," the Coens dial down the eccentricity and deliver their first classically made, audience-pleasing genre picture. The results are masterful. Their love for traditional Wild West movies glows with a cinephile's breadth of knowledge and a fan's mad crushes. With dazzling performances by Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, awe-inspiring cinematography and the Coens' trademark moral paradoxes, it's sweet nostalgia, subtly shaded with melancholy and peppered with dashes of black satire.