Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with "true grit," Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her "grit" tested.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When La Boeuf first meets Mattie, he tells her that one of the aliases of Chaney is J. Todd Anderson, a frequent Coen Brothers storyboard artist. See more »
At one point in the film, Rooster says that they have a choice of heading north into the Winding Stair Mountains or continuing further west. The Winding Stair Mountains are 30-40 miles southwest of Fort Smith, meaning they would have to travel south to go up into the mountains, not north. See more »
People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down and robbed him of his life and his horse and two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band. Chaney was a hired man and Papa had taken him up to Fort Smith to help lead back a string of Mustang ponies he'd bought. In town, Chaney had ...
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Drew Houpt is credited as "The New Duke", an apparent reference to John Wayne ('The Duke') who starred in the original film. See more »
The least "Coen" of all of the Coens films is also one of their finest. It has a few Coen inflections to it (Damon's twang of a voice, a few random mustached characters crossing paths with our heroes) but for the most part it's a lot more straight forward and less humored. Surprisingly this doesn't detract from the film at all, which is a riveting character journey in classic old school Hollywood fashion. And while generally "old school Hollywood fashion" would be something I would cringe and run away from, the Coens make it enjoyable, emotional and breathtaking. The technical qualities are all astounding; fantastic costumes, a beautiful score and some of the most exquisite cinematography I have ever seen, courtesy of the always reliable Roger Deakins. It's such an entertaining film, with some emotional power that resonates afterwards. There's a lot of twists that I didn't see it taking and none of the characters ended up being what I initially expected them to be. There's a real lack of obvious arcs for these people and that was a nice surprise. The Coens do what they can to avoid Hollywood conventions in what is, at it's core, a very Hollywood film.
Above all else, the film is a character piece and what a wonderful one it is. Unsurprisingly, these people are written very intelligently, given lots of depth and room to grow and surprise. There's a constant battle over what grit truly means and over the course of the film the balance shifts back and forth over which of the three has the truest grit. From the very opening, we see that Mattie Ross has a whole mess of it, this headstrong girl who won't back down to anyone, despite her small stature. Hailee Steinfeld is remarkable here, an actor with talent well beyond her years. She's entirely convincing, taking a character that could have been this annoying little brat and making her simultaneously strong, whip smart, endearing and adorable. I enjoyed watching her in every second. Jeff Bridges was different than I had expected, but I love his arc throughout the film. Maddie goes to him because she believes he has the most grit of all and that he is the right choice for her, but as the journey goes on she doubts her decision and Rooster Cogburn plays with our perception of him quite a few times. Bridges was my least favorite of the three, performance-wise, but that's not a huge slant given how highly I thought of the other two. Matt Damon gets arguably the most interesting role, a character who is detestable when we first meet him and then has the large task of making us realize that he just may have the truest grit of all. LaBoeuf is a silly man who thinks too highly of himself, but as the film progresses it becomes very hard not to care for him. He's a good man at his heart, as are Maddie and Rooster, and it makes it easy to root for all three of them to come out of this alright.
This is a film that I enjoyed even more than I thought I would, a Coen film in the most un-Coen of ways (which was a nice change of pace given that their previous effort, A Serious Man, is probably the most Coen film out there). I enjoyed living with these characters very much and wish that there had been more time to just be with them on their journey. The final confrontation with the men they are hunting is turns suspenseful, surprising and a little too short-lived. I didn't much care for the epilogue, but with the wildly entertaining journey that came before it, I can't fault the film that strongly for it. It's a real cinematic piece, surprisingly Hollywood for the Coens, but it doesn't fall into a lot of the traps that it could have. In fact, it does the opposite, jumping into holes where it could become clichéd and sentimental and then digging it's way out, surprising at every turn. I like that the story doesn't quite end after the basic plot is resolved, because it's not about hunting down the man that killed Maddie's father and hoping to bring him to justice. It's about so much more. It's about these characters and finding out who they really are when it all comes down to it.
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