‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 165


A film that arrived in the post today also acted as part of the cinema challenge earlier in the year and like then, again tonight it was something special…..

#124 / 365 – ‘True Grit’ – 110 mins
IMDb Challenge #76 / 250 – Ranked #199 – Via DVD Collection

Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield) sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with “True Grit,” Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her “grit” tested

Following welcome critical acclaim for their 2007 Oscar masterpiece “No Country For Old Men” the Coen brothers (Ethan and Joel) decided to return to the western front with their adaptation of Charles Portis’ successful novel “True Grit”. However if you are trying to draw comparisons with the 1969 John Wayne classic – the ‘title’ is where you should stop and draw a line, because what the Coen’s have crafted is something completely and majestically different.

Jeff Bridges (‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’) steps into the perennial John Wayne role of Rooster Cogburn, Bridges delivers most of his lines from a buried chin, scruffy voice that sounds like he’s rolling tobacco cigarettes in his mouth with little taints of his Oscar-winning Bad Blake performance from ‘Crazy Heart’. The film’s real treasure though comes from nothing short of a revelation, breakthrough performance in fourteen-year-old newcomer Hailee Stanfield, who plays the sharp and unexpectedly articulate Mattie Ross, a standout scene involves Mattie bartering with a sheep and pony salesman, whilst all the time she matches the heavyweight presence of Bridges, Damon and Brolin in every scene she appears alongside them.

Courtesy of British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is now collaboratively a Coen regular (“Fargo”,”The Big Lebowski”, “A Serious Man”) the film stirs up some of the most sweeping and breathtaking vistas of the West, from its opening sequence of a flurry of snow to its concluding shot everything is exquisite, whist all the time this plays out to a tingling Carter Burwell score.

The story itself isn’t complex, but at no point does it feel it needs to be. It’s simply is an old-fashioned tale of retribution at its core, with lots of unexpected humour sprinkled throughout. The Coen brothers are renowned for being the finest filmmakers of the modern era, where I very much liken them to versatile director, producer and screenwriter Howard Hawks who covered every genre with such ease and excellence.

The only very minutely criticism I have is that I wanted “True Grit” to continue way beyond its short run time of 110 minutes. The Coens have flawlessly breathed life into an American Classic with another American Classic.


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