Saturday, 1 January 2011

True Grit

The Coen brothers return with their most successful movie ever - a remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit. Tipped for the Oscars, is this modern Western going to sweep up in 2011?

I'm going to be honest, I've never seen the original True Grit - all I know about it is that it was John Wayne's sole Oscar winning performance and his last. Jeff Bridges takes on the one eyed Rooster who is employed by a young girl to find her father's killer - it's a simple chase movie that we know the Coens can do well, but is it their best yet? To be honest, I don't think so.

There's nothing I like more than a good Western but I just couldn't get into this story that much, it's great don't get me wrong but I don't love it as much as I loved No Country For Old Men for instance. That's not to say the performances here aren't incredible, because they are, and I'm sure that there might be an Oscar nomination nod here. Bridges is perfect for the dissatisfied, nihilistic Marshall and his gravel-tinged voice is full of the spite that he has for criminals - he truly doesn't care about killing another man. This is in contrast to the rather conservative Texas Ranger Matt Damon who has been chasing this notorious criminal for a while and his journey crosses theirs more regularly than they might like. Brolin as Chaney is again a small but perfect performance but it is Steinfeld as young Mattie that really stands out. For such a young actress her bold, brave and startlingly convincing performance sometimes completely outshines the others and I would not be surprised if she is nominated, or perhaps might even win an Oscar this year.

Not only is it just the acting, but the writing is also remarkable and every character in this movie will make you love and yet hate them. The girl is clever, sweet-natured but yet bloodthirsty and often annoying, Brolin is clearly evil but naive and subservient, Damon is brave yet stubborn and Bridges is the classic anti-hero. The dialogue and pacing is perfect, keeping you on your toes one minute but then lets you embrace the exchanges around the campfire the next, all without losing interest. A big issue here was that there's a lot of grumbling, murmuring and often I couldn't understand what was being said, an issue I'm finding cropping up more and more often - either that or I'm getting older.

I guess there are some deeper themes here, some more apparent than others such as feminism, sexism, existentialism and generally the idea of killing a man. However, there is also the idea of following your dream, coming-of-age, family and it's all generally very macho. It was an enjoyable film and I highly recommend it, but I can't justify giving it top marks because I immediately forgot about it as soon as it was over. It might get the same score as Tron: Legacy, which people might see as blasphemous, but I really did enjoy it the same amount. Coen brothers are generally considered 'cool' and 'indie', but have they ever been truly indie? They are usually the first names people go to when they try to suggest they know something about film, the amount of times I hear 'I think the Coen brothers are amazing', I agree that they are amazing but people often gush over them way too much then they should - A Simple Man? Burn After Reading? They got rave reviews but I didn't think they were much cop. Shock!

Overall, this is a good film that I would enjoy watching again, but not unless I had to. Great performances and I'm sure the Oscars will love it but if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the film. I don't really care if it's got Coen's all over it, it's a great film but it's not amazing and I'm sure they will release something similar in a couple of years. Quantity doesn't mean quality.

Rating: 8/10

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