Film: True filmmaking

 
 

Title: True Grit
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin
Release Date: February 11th

Has the Dude abandoned his dressing gown and white Russian for gun slinging and eye patches? In True Grit, Jeff Bridges has collaborated again with the Coen brothers in a renovation of John Wayne’s 1969 Western classic of the same name. Anybody looking for a recreation of The Big Lebowski, however, will be disappointed.

True Grit follows the adventure of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), an extremely resolute and mature 14-year-old girl (with an uncanny ability to roll cigarettes) in her mission to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who killed her father. She hires a drunkard marshal Reuben Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and they are joined by a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is tracking Chaney across the country for the assassination of a Texan senator.

The Coen brothers’ True Grit has brought the Western genre back to its fundamental roots. There are vintage stakeouts of black hat villains and campfires on the prairie. The Choctaw terrain is an environment for untrusting men with motives of financial gain, and where masculinity is measured by calibre. Bridges is excellent as the archetypal drunken lawman and is exceptionally impressive in his introductory scene in court, while Damon’s performance as the proud Ranger is equally good. However, it is Steinfeld’s portrayal of Mattie Ross that is truly outstanding. She gives an extremely accomplished performance in her quest for justice among her well-travelled counterparts.

True Grit is, unsurprisingly, brilliantly photographed by cinematographer Roger Deakins (Fargo, The Shawshank Redemption), who is effectively the third Coen brother. Deakins’s style and shot composition, especially in his long shots in this film, reinforces his mastery of the art of cinematography. The lack of recognition for his work by the Academy, despite nine nominations, is demonstrative of their ignorance for the formal mechanics of film. This film is a classic Western for a modern audience.

The yarn is gripping and its dialogue is expertly delivered. Although the trademarks of the Western genre are presented, they are not clichéd and the film’s ten Oscar nominations are definitely merited. The Dude would also abide: “Well, I dig your style too, man. Got the whole cowboy thing goin’?”

In a nutshell: A solid addition to the Coen brothers’ canon.

– Dermot O’Rourke

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