Jen Yamato
True Grit Review

Jen's Rating:

5.0

The best film of the year.

Who’s In It: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Elizabeth Marvel, Dakin Matthews

The Basics: When her father is killed by the cowardly crook Tom Chaney, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires gruff U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track him down and insists on coming along on the manhunt. Along the way, they’re joined by a dandy Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Matt Damon), who wants to bring Chaney in to stand trial for previous crimes. As the unlikely posse gets closer to catching Chaney and the gang of robbers he’s taken up with, all three heroes find their courage tested, emblems of a bygone era in American history when having “true grit” still meant something.

What’s The Deal: In filming Charles Portis’s novel of the same name, previously adapted into a slightly less faithful 1969 John Wayne starrer, Joel and Ethan Coen have crafted a subtle masterpiece at once alike and unlike their other films. Seemingly simple and straightforward upon first glance, the handsome period Western blossoms considerably into a profound nostalgic experience, a deliberately styled homage to the great American past, its rough and honorable heroes (and villains), and to the Western genre itself. Ever present beneath the surface is that trademark dark Coen wit, played with expert precision by Bridges as a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of lawman with a reputation for brutality and a taste for drink. But the biggest revelation of True Grit is 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who turns in an astonishing debut performance as the tenacious little girl who shows grown men what it means to have strength of character, determination, and courage in the face of impossible odds. Together, Bridges and Steinfeld make the best on-screen duo of the year, in the best film of the year.

On Honor Among Men (And Women) On Both Sides Of The Law: Each character in True Grit is morally complex and has something to prove, making for a captivating ensemble of individuals with their own internal crosses to bear. Cogburn struggles to prove that he’s not just a bloodthirsty opportunist with a lawman’s badge and constantly butts heads with La Boeuf, an honor bound officer who disdains Cogburn’s unscrupulous ways but has yet to prove his own effectiveness. Even the outlaw Ned Pepper is a walking contradiction; portrayed by Barry Pepper in one of the best supporting turns of the year, he’s a wild-eyed career criminal with deeper moral scruples than any other character in the film and also the only person who instantly gives Mattie Ross the respect she deserves.

A Retro Western With That Coen Touch: The writer-directors embrace Portis’s snappy antiquated dialogue with gusto and pepper the script with their own darkly humorous moments and eccentric characters, but it’s all tempered with a deep respect for the characters and the grand, idealistic themes of the source material. The sight that surprises Bridges’s Cogburn in the middle of a snowy forest is a comic highlight that you don’t see in the 1969 film version.

Best Supporting Score: From the very first notes of the film, longtime Coen collaborator Carter Burwell creates an aural world for characters to inhabit with a haunting spiritual score based on period hymns. (Because of the source material, Burwell’s score is ineligible for Oscar consideration.) Burwell’s lingering work does as much to construct True Grit’s majestic feeling as Roger Deakins’s cinematography, echoing the emotional currents of the story long after the credits begin to roll.

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Comments (24)

Bryan - 12-23-2010 2:18 PM
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Dear Jen Yamato i agree with your rating of this picture. But to compare Jeff Bridges Matt Damon to actors like John Wayne and Robert Duval and GLen Cambel.These actors are Hollwood Legends.Your actors are not even in the same League as these actors.But i loved the film and i really like your reviews.

Jen Yamato - 12-23-2010 3:07 PM
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Hi Bryan - I hear what you're saying and I don't believe I explicitly compare the actors in my review. But I do think this version of True Grit is excellent. Glad you liked the film as well.

John - 12-23-2010 5:14 PM
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Excellent review! And Bryan, Jeff Bridges was a better Cogburn than Wayne in my opinion.

Shane - 12-24-2010 7:36 AM
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Excellent review, Jen! Well written! I am seeing the movie this weekend! Bryan: Jen never even compared the "legends" to the current actors. Were you reading the same review? One shouldn't blog while intoxicated! :) Besides....if you don't think Jeff Bridges is a legend, then "there's nothing I can do for ya, son".

tim - 12-24-2010 5:39 PM
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glen cambel a legend wow how did i miss that one? loved the movie.. big fan of the first. no one can say "fill your hands you son of bitches like the duke".

Victor - 12-24-2010 6:00 PM
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Wow! Glen Campbell a legend? He was horrible in the original,great review can't wait to see the movie! Been waiting for a remake of a Wayne movie!

Alberto - 12-25-2010 11:27 AM
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Jen your gorgeous!

bobbyd - 12-25-2010 1:23 PM
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This movie version of the original "True Grit" was not quite as exciting as one would think. Bridges put too much "grit" into being able to compare to the legendary John Wayne and really doesn't hold a candle to his excellence...

Greg - 12-25-2010 10:22 PM
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Bryan- John Wayne was nothing special. And Alberto, I agree with you, Jen, you are gorgeous.

zeke - 12-26-2010 8:27 AM
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Bryan- You need to realize that the actors of today are just as good if not better then past actors. John Wayne is a fantastic actor. But he plays only one type of character. The tough and ready, shoot first kind of guy. Many of the actors today (many, not all), create characters that are completely different from any other type of character. The actors of today are able to learn from the knowledge of the many actors over past decades, then use that knowledge to create many different types of characters.

Gerry Johnston - 12-26-2010 12:38 PM
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I loved the first True Gritbut hard as it is to say, "This one is better."

Tony - 12-27-2010 6:38 PM
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John Wayne was a great movie star. As an actor he was probably cumulatively also great, but his Academy Award for True Grit was both for the movie, but even more it was for his entire body of work, for which it was greatly deserved. This is a different movie, by two Academy Award winning actors and an Academy award winning Director/Writer team in the Coens. It is not a star vehicle like the original True Grit, it is a collaboration of masters of their art/craft, so it is different and by this conjunction of skills it is better.

The Yankeeclipper - 12-29-2010 9:43 PM
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Saw the movie tonight and did not want it to end. I'm no critic but know what I like and this is a masterpiece in every aspect. The photography, music, and delivery by these artists was breathtaking. Captivating and enchanting. Immediately one of my top 10 films - Spielberg has done it again.

Mike - 1-02-2011 1:40 PM
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this reviewer is clueless. This is no where near a 5 star movie. Maybe 2 stars. It's amazng just because Jeff Bridges is a likeable and hot actor right now the movie gets praise. Bull

Mike - 1-02-2011 7:03 PM
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You obviously did not read the book Jen Yamato. The original was taken almost verbaten from the book. If you read the book you will see how obvious that is and you will also note that the Coen bros. took many liberties with the story in order to give it the ending straight out of th book. The ending is the only thing the original movie changed. Watch the original true grit and then watch this remake and you will notice how rushed this picture is in order to fit the new ending. Then again maybe you won't see.

Livingston - 1-05-2011 1:20 PM
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Right now I am in film school, and from what I have read Jen hit this one on the nose. True this movie didnt have everything the book had, but in order to fit a novel into a two hour film, you have to take out a few things in order to give people a story that will captivate you for a certain amount of time. John Wayne was great and is a legend. I love John Wayne, but no one can deny that Jeff Bridges made this character his own. True Grit (2010) hopefully put westerns back on the map. Its time to go back to the old style of what Hollywood used to be; good old fashion storytelling and simplicity in the way it is accomplished.

Duncan - 1-07-2011 12:09 PM
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I think that all the fuss over whether Bridges or Wayne made a better Cogburn is a little contrived -- they both played the role with subtlety, though that is something we have come to expect from Bridges that we maybe hadn't seen from Wayne before that point in his career. The real story here is that Hailee Steinfeld puts in a performance that ranks with Ahny Her's in Gran Torino. It always amazes me to see what talented directors can achieve with talented young actors.

V Maq - 1-09-2011 3:06 AM
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@ Bryan You make a good point, but to say that Bridges and Damon are not even in the same league is a bit quick. After all, Wayne and Cambell where in their time, Damon and Bridges are in theirs. We shouldn't just nor compare actors to each other but, also not compare time periods. You wouldn't say, compare a Chaplin movie to one starred by Downey Jr. as for his time, it was a terrific performance and it was a portrayal of Chaplin himself. Here both Damon and Bridges provided different shades of the same characters portrayed before by two other great actors.

ed - 1-09-2011 5:13 PM
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5 star in all phases. way way better than the original which was very good. could see again and again.

John - 1-10-2011 1:05 AM
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I found this film simply okay ..not great and so not the best film of the year in my opinion

Amit Sharma - 1-12-2011 12:36 PM
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Muje yah film bhut hi aachi lgi aur mai ye film ko ab dekhna chahta hui

Amit Sharma - 1-12-2011 12:37 PM
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Muje yah film bhut hi aachi lgi aur mai ye film ko ab dekhna chahta hui

Ronny - 1-16-2011 7:57 AM
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OK..I'm convinced. I'll go see it. But, Bridges and Damon better be as good as Academy Award winners Wayne and Duval...who made entire careers out of westerns. Who will play the other academy award winner, the older of the Hepburns, in the sequel?

youngerthanyou - 2-11-2011 5:08 AM
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Gotta love the old geezers crying about their "good-ole days"...I haven't seen the original in entirety. And no, I have no desire to really. But I do love the sentimentality of people clinging to the past. I'm sure I will be the same when I am 105.

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