"It’s just a really fantastic film, with a great script and impressive acting performances"
It would be difficult to think of any other filmmakers of whom, when you hear of an upcoming release, you anticipate more greatly than that of the Coen Brothers. With such an impressive portfolio of fantastic movies, the pressure is always on for their films to live up to their back-catalogue; and True Grit is certainly not a disappointment, in fact, it’s far from it.
One criticism which has been bandied around since the announcement that the film was to be made, is that it is a ‘re-make’ of the Western classic of the same title from 1969, featuring John Wayne. However, unbeknown to me before recently seeing it, the original film itself was based on the Charles Portis novel True Grit, therefore meaning that the Coen Brothers adaptation is simply its own interpretation of the original novel in its own right, and therefore can’t be described as a’ re-make’.
It follows the story of 14-year-old Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) who is out to avenge her father’s death, at the hands of the murderer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). During her pursuit she persuades the seemingly vicious and infallible US Marshall Rooster (Jeff Bridges), as well as Texas Ranger Laboeuf (Matt Damon), to help her track down Chaney and take vengeance on the man who killed her Father.
And the part of Mattie was performed astoundingly by Steinfeld. The young actress is just 14 years of age – exactly the same as her character. One of the key themes to the film, and an important aspect, is that Mattie struggles to fulfil her avengement due to her tender age. She is completely mature enough to handle what she intends to do, but she finds it difficult to prove that to the sceptics around her. Therefore, in order for the part to work and make sense, the actress herself also has to be much more mature for her age to make it believable, and she certainly pulls this off. When the characters within the film are surprised by her confidence and maturity (evident in a hilarious scene of haggling with horse trader Colonel Stonehill), you almost feel as though the audience are in a similar situation to them as we also struggle to believe how self-assured and intelligent this young girl appears be. She’s so good in fact, that the surprise shown by the characters in the film almost feels like genuine astonishment.
But the credit cannot lie solely with the actress, as in order for her part to be fully comprehensible, the writing needs to be good, and with the Coen Brothers, that is a sure thing.
True Grit has the Coen Brothers stamped all over it. It has their dry, black humour that they manage to put in any given circumstance. In the most sombre of scenes, they manage to put in subtle one-liners – really making the feature unmistakably theirs. They have a way of embedding the Southern American quirky and quite dry sense of humour into their work, really bringing out the ‘hillbilly’ spirit and essence of such people to good use.
It’s just a really fantastic film, with a great script and impressive acting performances, not just by Steinfeld, but also by Damon and Bridges, with the latter playing a hilariously treacherous man, particularly when combined with whisky.
Its bang on form, and if you’re a fan of the Coen Brothers (and even if you’re not), I’d advise that you go and see this film, they haven’t, as per usual, let us down.