March 14, 2011 by Marcin.Wilczek
Recently, Hollywood has devised to cash in on the fashion of constructing plots so far fetched that even their own authors fail at understanding who is who and who had done what. Luckily, one film has decided to oppose this fad and rely on something simpler – a novel, and a classic at that.
True Grit follows the simple age-old tale of a child deciding to avenge the death of one of their parents. We are introduced to Mattie Ross, the main heroine, as she tends to her recently-deceased father’s unfinished business and devises a plan to bring his killer to justice, the old West style. She attempts to enlist the assistance of an unwilling U.S. Marshall, but he refuses to cooperate until…
Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie, portrays an authentic frontierswoman on the verge of an early adulthood. She convincingly personates a child deeply touched by the tragic death of a parent. Yet her shining star is stolen by Jeff Bridges in the role of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, whose performance can only be described as epic. It is in fact so good that he even outshines the original adaptation’s John Wayne. For added comic flavor Matt Damon is cast as the somewhat clumsy Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, a pair of boots he wears with flair and pizazz. Shortly put, a cast like this would make an even mediocre film stand out.
Paradoxically, not even such a strong acting team can take the credit for the film being such a masterpiece. Praise in this case is mostly due to the screenwriter/director/brother team of Ethan and Joel Coen. Also paradoxically, this great asset is also one of the film’s greatest weaknesses when viewed from the perspective of a non-native speaker of English. The language of the film is a work of art in its own right. It’s actually the key ingredient that immerses the viewer in the American frontier of the late nineteenth century. And the wordplay itself plays first violin in the humor of the film.
From a strictly personal point of view I’d place this movie in my list of top-ten films of all-time. The solid narration, an excellent casting job and the marvelous use of language all contribute to this decision. This and the magic of the Coen brothers all make for an unforgettable and truly recommendable experience.