Hollywood used to crank out Western films like rabbits crank out little baby rabbits! And most of them were good! Then, come the ’60s and other genres began to take over the box office and Westerns began to fade. A good one would surface here and there (Young Guns, Unforgiven, The Good The Bad and The Ugly), but most that would release, especially more recently, were mediocre at best (Appaloosa, 3:10 to Yuma, Jonah Hex, etc). So, there were definitely reservations when it comes to another Western coming to the big screen. Not to mention the reservations had by some because of the fact that it is a JOHN WAYNE remake!!!! (We all know my thoughts on remakes and sequels). In the words of my friend, Meccadawn, “Remaking John Wayne….you just don’t do that!”
For all of you Western fans and John Wayne fans alike: Thank The Brothers Coen for True Grit and be ready to be taken back to the feel of Westerns of old.
(Allow me to preface this by letting you know that I watched many John Wayne movies growing up, but True Grit was one that I never had the pleasure of watching. If this also describes your movie watching history, then this remake of True Grit will make you want to watch the original even more! I cannot review this movie through the eyes of one having seen the original, however, I have NO Doubt that the fans of the original will completely enjoy the job done by The Brothers Coen, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfield, and Josh Brolin!)
True Grit follows the story of Mattie Ross, a 14yr old self-reliant and determined girl who is seeking vengeance against the fugitive outlaw who took her father’s life. In order to do so, she employs the experience and grit of a U.S. Marshal named Rooster Cogburn. Insistent upon seeing the job completed through personally, she embarks out with the Marshal on the bounty trip and their hunt, joined by Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Damon), begins which leads them across several trying plains and characters. This film does a fantastic job with the cinematography! The Coen brothers literally transport the viewer back to the late 19th century through the use of the camera lens. The look and feel of the film via cinematography alone, causes one to wonder if the movie theater accidentally put in movie reel footage from a classic western instead of this new great Western movie.
In classic Coen style (which actually emulates several Westerns of old), the beginning of the film starts off slow (not boring, just slow), as it is setting the stage for the 2nd and 3rd acts. All of the foundational work that is laid for character and plot development beautifully plays its part to bring the entire story together as one. The young lady Hailee Steinfeld, the highly talented Jeff Bridges, the versatile Matt Damon, and the rest of the cast do more than just act their parts…..they ARE their parts…and introduce us to their characters’ world in such a fashion that aspiring actors such as Kristen Stewart and Channing Tatum should learn from!
Another thing I rather enjoyed about this movie was the style of music that was used. It, again, took me back to watching Westerns on my couch with my dad as a young boy. Their use of hymns playing as the musical themes for characters, struggles, or scenes was very classic and appropriate for those who happen to know the lyrics of the instrumental music playing throughout the film. Songs such as “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” are classic hymns from that time period that were chosen as the background instrumental for several scenes….the words to the hymns were seemingly very appropriate and a very subtle add to the power of the scenes.
The 2nd and 3rd acts of True Grit bring to light the reason for the title of the film as Rueben “Rooster” Cogburn, Ranger LaBeouf, AND Mattie Ross display true grit in all that they must face while chasing down Tom Chaney (Brolin). The action and adventure in the final 2 acts may not be 100% chock full of adrenaline, but they have just enough to make this film feel exactly as it should. The audaciousness, fortitude, and persistence that we see in young Mattie Ross in the first act is what carries her through the rest of the film, all the way to the end, and her True Grit ends up inspiring not only her companions and her enemies, but also the viewer. The connections that the viewers make in relation to the characters draws everyone into the story and keeps the attention of the viewer up to the very end, even after all of the action ceases.
I don’t think that I could have hoped for a better movie to be a tribute to the style and swagger of The Duke’s movies. In my opinion, Bridges does an uncanny job at embodying the sense and style of The Duke himself! Bravo! Big shoes to fill. One thing that makes me glad about a John Wayne remake such as this is the hope that it will bring more of them to blu-ray (True Grit, original, released on blu-ray recently), and that more of this generation would pull out the John Wayne movies from their father’s collection and start to watch them as well.
Go see True Grit. Forget other movies that may be playing this Christmas week: Little Fockers, Yogi Bear, How Do You Know, Gulliver’s Travels….seriously?? 🙂 Go see True Grit!
Thanks for reading!
Enjoy if you wish…or don’t enjoy! Happy Watching!
–TheSp1der’s Score: overall: 9 out of 10 stars “True Grit”
up next: The Fighter, Black Swan, Buried, and “TRAILER TIME THURSDAY!”