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December 24, 2010
Review - " True Grit "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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True Grit
Directed by: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and
Hailee Steinfeld

The characters created by Charles Portis in his "True Grit" novel are
unique and nothing less than outstanding, and each one is
interpreted splendidly in the movie. It's a story of "search and
avenge."  Our 14 year-old Heroine, Mattie Ross (played by
newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) rides into town to handle affairs after her
father has been murdered. Mattie's father has been killed by ranch
hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin in one of the best performances in
the film), who subsequently bolted into Indian territory and joined
forces with the outlaw Lucky Ned (Barry Pepper). Jeff Bridges is
Marshal Rooster Cogburn, a man who displays "true grit", the classic
American anti-hero–thoroughly flawed but ultimately dependable and
ruthless in his defense of those he holds dear. The teenager hires
Cogburn to pursue him after the sheriff explains that he has no
jurisdiction in Indian lands. Tagging along is pretty-boy Texas
Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon), who seeks Chaney for his own

Westerns are morality plays, where there's no space for ambiguity or
temptation. In our morally ambiguous times, it's satisfying to see this
simplicity. Everything about this Film though, feels authentic. The
movie made me feel the actual dirty, cold and crudeness of the west.

The Coen's new adaptation of the movie True Grit is far less of the
clean-cut, glossy colored movie of it's counterpart. The Coens
brilliantly make a solid film with their signature style and witty
dialogue. The film, however, also breaks their mold a little. You still have the classic lines from the book/first film, the plot is
relatively conventional, and it has a somewhat happy ending. The true reason True Grit works is because of the fine talent
in front of the camera. Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, and Josh Brolin all succeed, but the emotional core of the film is really in
Jeff Bridge's Rooster and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld's Maddie. Rooster is your typical crusty-yet-humorous lawman, who is
too much of a drunk gunslinger to be anything close to a respectable man, while Maddie is the wise-beyond-her-years
teenager, who appears to be more tough than her male, adult companions. Yet, in the brilliance of the movie, these
individuals rise to the occasion; for a moment, Maddie becomes the child she truly is and Rooster's integrity rises to the level
of a man. For a simple moment, they are a family, and the moment changes their lives.

To praise Bridges and Damon on their fine work is moot point really, as their shining moments by far outnumber their
lackluster ones.  They deliver committed performances here and we should never expect less of them.  Their competitive
chemistry comes out in full-force in one humorous scene which has LaBoeuf challenging Rooster's ability to shoot a gun
precisely. Particularly engaging is Steinfeld in one of the finest breakout performances in recent memory.  The level of
conviction she delivers here is breathtaking - of a maturity many years beyond her youth.  She nails the physicality and
emotionality required of her role effortlessly. Steinfeld had more opportunities to show both sides of Mattie's personality, the
well-educated, precocious, determined young woman and the frightened little girl who misses her father.

In a year where there have been many strong, original stories on-screen, it's easy for a Film like True Grit to be forgotten.
Although I'm hard-pressed to place True Grit among my Year's Best, it is nonetheless a fine exercise in Storytelling.