True Grit surprises skeptics with action and depth


Rachel Crane

Credit: Paramount Pictures.
True Grit remake: not shabby Credit: Paramount Pictures.

You hear the word “Western” and immediately drunken cowboys, dingy saloons, bad accents, and gun show-downs swirl throughout your mind and give you reason to already rule out seeing the Coen Brothers’ newest film, True Grit.

And although True Grit does contain all of these Western movie clichés, it interweaves them with a captivating plot and realistic characters, which turns this film into a uniquely entertaining two hours.

This film was adapted from the novel of the same name, and is a remake of the 1969 Western film starring John Wayne.

True Grit is the story of 14-year-old Mattie Rose (Hailee Steinfeld), who is the daughter of a man who was murdered by one of their family’s hired hands, Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin). Mattie has been sent to Arkansas by her family to see to her father’s affairs, and while there, she decides to seek revenge for her father’s murder.

In order to do so, Mattie hires the vicious and perpetually drunk one-eyed U.S. Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to aid her in her search for her father’s murderer. Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) also joins in on the quest to find Cheney.

The hunt for Cheney, while mostly entertaining, does hit a few dull spots along the way. It’s not that any one scene itself is more boring than another, but more that each scene lasts just a minute or two longer than what would make it perfect.

All of the characters in the film (once you are able to get over their preposterous accents and the odd absence of contractions in their speech) are relatable heroes. Unlike the well-rounded heroes in most Westerns, protagonists in True Grit are flawed in numerous ways.

Bridges’ character, Rooster Cogburn, is by far the best example of the imperfect hero. Cogburn is first shown in court as a whiskey soaked, lying, and cantankerous scoundrel. It is only as the rest of the movie unfolds that the audience is able to see the sensitivity that resides in his heart.

Bridges deserves praise for his ability to delicately portray Cogburn as a man that is not as tough skinned, and boorish as he wishes to be seen. He really brings his character to life, and adds an indescribable richness to the film as a whole.

Although she is considered to only have a supporting role, Hailee Steinfeld is the true star of the movie.

Steinfeld’s character charms the audience with her politely stubborn attitude and astonishing courage. Ross bravely faces her father’s murderer, holds her own next to two vulgar men, and all the while is able to lighten the mood with her intelligent quips.

In True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen masterfully weave together the components of a good Western and those of an incredible modern day film; and the result is one of the best Western films in decades.

I give it an 8.5/10.

What do you think?