True Grit - Review

The Team "Coens and Jeff Bridges" stand for quality, originality and perfection. When i first hear about the coens doing a remake on the 1969 western "True Grit", there was not much information about it so far. I think the first trailer showed up pretty late for this movie (i think october). So the hype about the new coens flick was pretty low as far as i witnessed, is that a bad or a good sign? Or just a very good strategy to not let expectations grow too high? But now "True Grit" is in the cinemas. It's already a brave move to make a western movie in an age where those kind of movies appear to be "done". But well...this time we are talking about the do they handle this?

The plot:
Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross 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. 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, 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.

First things first, i never saw the John Wayne original or the original novel the movie was based on, so i will avoid comparisons between the versions.

As you can see, the overall plot is built up surprisingly simple. It's the typical premise of an adventure movie. The whole movie itself is a journey of a girl and 2 men hunting a criminal. Most of you might think this is way to less for the coens to work with. BUT WRONG! The coens make the absolutely very best out of this plot possible. It is incredible how the coens managed to execute that "simple" story so well. A story doesn't have to be complicated to be good. But this movie's strength is not the plot or the story itself but the characters. "True Grit" is 90% character driven. The focus is not on the journey itself but the characters. During the course of the movie we find out more and more about each character. The most interesting of the bunch being (of course) Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). I don't know if the term "anti-hero" matches the best when describing this old fella but you honestly have to see it for yourself to make an opinion. Also it's a story about great character development as we witness that Cogburn and LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) not only have several facettes concerning their character but also that their character changes towards the end of the movie. Slowly each of them has a special kind of relationshop to one another. This western is not about action and how many dudes you can shoot but about how deep and complex a character can be. But don't think that this movie is all about talking. "True Grit" is also full of dry black humor (typical for the coens) and violence. The violence and the shooting is not everywhere in this movie but it's placed and shown so well that it gives the movie a suprisingly heavy sense for realism. I was honestly pretty shocked how detailed the violence was in this movie. But i think that this is very positive. It shows that the coens have a great sense for detail.
But as i said, in the core "True Grit" is an adventure movie, and although we don't know ANYTHING about the bad guy Chaney they are trying to kill (except why he is bad), you so damn want the good guys to succeed. Not because we know what a scumbag Chaney is, but because that group consisting of Cogburn, LaBoeuf and Mattie Ross is just so likable.

But now let's talk about the acting. The acting in this flick is superb. Total perfection. The acting in this one gets 100%. At the top is of course Jeff Bridges. Man what an actor! Bridges handles that old western accent so well it's incredible. Of course almost every actor in this flick makes use of it but Jeff Bridges just takes the cake. He also succeedds in giving you this old bastard Cogburn which you immediately hate: he is an old drunk mean fella that Mattie NEEDS but not WANTS, but who towards the end shows that he is a man of "true grit". Great character development there.
The second best actor (although it turned out to get pretty close this time) is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Damn this girl can act. At times i thought that the "overacted" some scenes but it's only if you are nippicky. Overall she gives an extraordinarily good performance in this flick. Especially if you consider her being a newcomer. Steinfeld does a great job giving you an innocent character you is new to the violent nature of the west and doesn't know what she is getting herself into by following Cogburn. Despite having most of the screentime, Hailee Steinfeld manages to give us a great performance without acting "too much". In this case, the coens manage to balance the acting of each character very good.
Also i think it was a great move to give Josh Brolin so little screentime. Not because i hate Jos Brolin himself or his acting, but because not showing the main villain for the entirety of the movie, makes the anticipation grow. You just so want the good guys to find that bastard. So this is the reward not only for the heroes but also for the audience itself. Although i think that Josh Brolin could have shown a bit more of his acting skills, his performance is pretty good for the little screentime that he has. But i wished that he would shown a bit stronger, just what a scumbag Tom Chaney really is.
I had another little problem with Matt Damon playing LaBoeuf. Damon's acting is really good but he just seemed a bit too boyish and miscast in this role. But fortunately it's not such a bad miscasting that it would hurt the movie. It's just a taste kind of thing. Maybe an actor a tiny bit older would have matched better, but the coens wanted to underline the age difference between Cogburn and LaBoeuf, so i think it's all good.

All in all, i didn't expect that one of the greatest movies this year would come out so lately but exactly that's what happened. "True Grit" might not be the best movie of the Coens but it sure as hell is the best "new" western movie that came out in recent time since "3:10 to Yuma". The Coens show us another time what a great team of directors they are. Manifested by great performances of Jeff Bridges, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon and backed up by strong a strong supporting cast, this movie might be one of the stronger contestants for the oscars 2011. This movie is not about how complex a story can get a la inception, but about how well executed a simple story can be with great performances and a great sense of detail. "True Grit" is an "honest", realistic and at the same time entertaining as hell western. With that said: if you want to see a great western, one of the best movies that came out 2010, another brilliant work of the coens AND one of Jeff Bridges' greatest performances yet (as i think), then what the hell are you waiting for? This is one remake that DOES work! Go check out "True Grit"!

Final Verdict: 9 out of 10


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