Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
True Grit was easily one of the best films of the year and definitely my favorite from the Coen Brothers.
Mattie Ross's father was brutally slain by a drifter named Tom Chaney who escaped without the sheriff going after him. To 12-year-old Mattie, this is unacceptable and she rides into town, demanding that something be done about it. She hires Rooster Cogburn, a deputy Marshall, to help track Chaney down. Rooster is a mean, one-eyed, overweight drunk who shoots first and asks questions later. Which Mattie feels are the best qualities needed to track down the man who killed her father. But a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf is also chasing Chaney, and has been for a long time. Mattie reluctantly allows La Boeuf to join the chase, but none of the three seems really happy about having the other two around. Even though she's only 12, Mattie proves to be as tough as they come and soon they find themselves within sight of Chaney. But the gang Chaney has taken up with won't give up easily, and it comes down to every person for themselves.
Not being a huge fan of the Coen Brothers or a fan of Westerns, I didn't go into True Grit with high expectations. But the movie completely blew me away. Other than a strange tacked on ending, the movie had me in its grips the entire 110 minutes, and I honestly kept hoping it would go on longer. Not really a Western, the movie was more of a character-driven chase film through the wild west. Hailee Steinfeld, who plays young Mattie Ross, is a true find. To put an entire movie on her shoulders was risky, but it paid off in spades. She had completely control of the screen every time she was on. The movie rested almost completely on her shoulders for the first half, before allowing her to breathe and giving Jeff Bridges the heavy lifting. I'm also not generally a fan of Bridges, but his Rooster Cogburn had me captivated, even if part of it was because he was very hard to understand. He too had complete control of the screen whenever he was on. Watching him and Hailee spar with each other was a treat. In fact, watching Hailee spar with anyone was a treat because she would win the verbal sparring, and could only be taken down when one of the men decided she needed to be taught a lesson. That man was generally Matt Damon's La Boeuf, who was strangely attracted to Hailee while at the same time, repulsed by her. Add in some Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper and you've got a cast that could match up with any in 2010. While I'm not a fan of all the Coen Brothers films, I will say this - they manage to get tremendous performances out of their actors. And visually the brothers have a tremendous eye. Every one of their films is beautifully shot and makes you feel like you're in the middle of whatever place they've decided to film. My only issue with their past films has been pacing/story elements. With True Grit I felt the pacing was just fine, though I did still have an issue with the ending of the movie, which I'll discuss in a second. But if you're looking for a well-acted, well-shot movie that can hold your attention in this world of special effects, this is the movie for you.
Story-wise, the movie is simple - a girl wants justice for her father and hires a man to help her get that justice. The film isn't about the chase as much as it is about the relationships that form during the chase, especially between Mattie and Rooster. Mattie is a no-nonsense girl who has been forced to take control of her family after her father's murder. Rooster is just a drunk with a badge, which makes him feel like he can do anything at any time. So the two of them constantly butt heads, but eventually end up with a grudging respect, if not love, for each other. And for others, when La Boeuf joins up. Still, it's Mattie and Rooster against the world. Their interplay, while serious, also leads to a lot of comical moments. The movie is filled with humor, which I wasn't expecting at all, given the subject matter. But Rooster is deadpan funny for most of the movie since he's lost the ability to care what other people think. And watching Mattie put the fear of God into the man who hired her father was downright hysterical. This isn't an old-fashioned Western where people talk with their weapons.
My one issue came with the ending. The movie is framed by Mattie talking about what happened from some future point. She is on a train to visit old Rooster and is telling us what happened way back when. I understand the use of the frame but the ending, when we catch up with her in the future, felt very forced and tacked on. It really served no purpose other than to extend the film for a few minutes. I suppose you could look at it like we all have moments in our lives that are memorable, but once those moments are over, no matter how close you get to someone, we still retreat back to our old lives. But considering how close Mattie and Rooster got, realizing that they hadn't seen each other since their adventure, and never would again, felt very sad and unnecessary.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I loved True Grit and consider it easily one of the best movies of the year.