True Grit movie poster
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True Grit movie poster

True Grit Movie Review

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The great thing about westerns is that so few westerns are made anymore. Don't get me wrong - I love westerns - but given the genre's lack of popularity, when westerns are made these days the filmmakers seem to go to extra lengths to deliver quality. True Grit is further proof.

The latest from the Coen brothers, True Grit is an adaptation of the book and a remake of the 1969 Oscar-winning John Wayne movie about a 14-year old girl named Mattie Ross who hires a federal marshal to hunt down the outlaw who killed her father.

The movie is an exceptional western, a picture that, despite excellent performances and great visuals, is proud to be conventional in its approach. The most mainstream Coen brothers movie to date, True Grit is an entertaining, funny and poignant action-drama that reminds us about all the great things the genre can offer.

True Grit is a slow boil film. With exception to a few violent outbursts, there isn't much action until the final 20 minutes; the rest is talking and character development. Though the picture drags in a few overly extended scenes (the courtroom scene, for instance), Joel and Ethan Coen have once again delivered a well written, beautifully crafted story to audiences.

The movie is funnier than expected, which is amusing since one should always expect dark humor from the Coen brothers. Though I would have traded some humor for a little more excitement, the audience was in stitches at times.

The real highlights are the performances. Jeff Bridges is excellent as the cranky, gritty drunk of a marshal Rooster Cogburn, who plays wonderfully off the talkative and proud Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. Both actors are perfect in their respective roles.

It's newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who steals the show, however. The girl talks tough and walks the walk, showing she can play with the big boys - them boys being Oscar winners and nominees more often than not (Josh Brolin plays the underutilized villain).

Will Steinfeld earn an Oscar nomination for her debut? Quite possibly.

Another question: Is True Grit one of the very best movies of the year? That'd be a stretch. True Grit is a great western. It has all the components of a good movie and fires on all cylinders. It's an entertaining product, but people expecting best picture material should look elsewhere.

It might get nominated because there are ten slots to fill and the Coen brothers are the Coen brothers, but I didn't walk out of the theater blown away by the dramatic force of the picture. It doesn't try to be anything more than it is, and that's perfectly fine.

It doesn't help that the climax feels rushed. While fine as is, the climax introduces the bad guys and then kills them off just as quickly. Cogburn, LaBoeuf and Mattie spend the entire movie hunting them, but when Mattie gets kidnapped the stakes don't seem to get any higher. The ending doesn't feel rushed, but there is a lot of potential left on the table.

True Grit is a fun movie, a return to the western genre as it once was, and it's an entertaining ride from beginning to end. It isn't the tour de force some critics were expecting, but those were lofty expectations the movie was never meant to meet. Recommended.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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