I have seen some western movies over the years, though they aren't my favorite. I've enjoyed some of them, but I don't consider myself a fan of them. Despite that, I have been wanting to see True Grit, the newest movie directed by the Coen Brothers, since I first saw the trailer.
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After her father is killed by Tom Chaney, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross decides to deal with things herself. She is determined to track down Chaney and make him pay for murdering her father. She decides to hire U.S. Marshal Reuben Cogburn (Rooster) to track down Chaney. Rooster isn't interested at first, but Mattie is persistent and convinces him.
Texas Ranger La Boeuf arrives, also on the trail of Chaney. La Boeuf has been after him for months for killing a senator in Texas. La Boeuf suggests to Mattie that he should work with Rooster, but Mattie doesn't like that idea because she wants Chaney to hang for killing her father instead of another crime. Mattie is determined to travel with Rooster and he finally agrees after a failed attempt to leave her behind. Rooster decides to team up with La Boeuf, though the two men don't get along well and it isn't long before they part ways. Rooster and Mattie continue, facing danger while trying to catch up to Chaney.
True Grit is based on the book of the same name by Charles Portis. Another movie based on the book was made in 1969 with John Wayne playing Rooster. I might have seen that version of the movie years ago, but I really couldn't remember anything from it. I did end up seeing that version after watching this version. The main plots are the same and most of what happens is the same. There are a few little differences here and there, with the biggest difference coming late in the movie. I haven't read the book, but I have heard that this version of the movie stays closer to the book.
Things start off slightly slower in True Grit with the murder of Mattie's father being shared and Mattie arriving to take care of things. There is a simplicity to the way the movie begins, including how the picture looks, but that works perfectly for the movie and what is going on. It doesn't take long for more to start happening as Mattie sets out to achieve her goal of finding Chaney and making sure he pays for murdering her father. I do think there are a few surprises to what happens, though people who are familiar with the story may feel differently. The movie is very entertaining and definitely worth watching even though the story is fairly straightforward.
Really everything that happens in True Grit is connected to the murder of Mattie's father and her determination to track down Chaney. She meets Rooster because she believes he is the man she needs to find Chaney. La Boeuf showing up does slightly complicate things. More complications pop up later in the movie when they encounter Ned Pepper and his gang. A little time is taken to let the unique friendship develop between Mattie and Rooster. They don't always agree, but they manage to work together fairly well. Most of what is happening is serious, but humor is added throughout in several scenes through things that the characters - usually Rooster - say or do. Rooster says several things that end up being funny because of when he says them. The humor is slightly twisted at times, but it works for the movie.
Violence is in several scenes of True Grit, though the movie isn't as violent as I had thought it might be before seeing it. I guess I just figured that since the Coen brothers were involved, the movie would be more violent and be rated R. I was a bit surprised when I found out that it was rated PG-13. The violence is mostly confined to one or two scenes, with one of them being a bit more graphic. Snakes turn up later in the movie in a scene that was very disturbing to me given my extreme phobia of snakes. The movie is not one for children and some of what happens may upset or disturb some viewers.
Characters and locations do have a sort of gritty, dirty look to them in True Grit. That is fitting for the setting of the movie and what is going on in my opinion. Even though there is a sort of bleak look to many settings, they are also beautiful. There are several shots in the movie that are hauntingly beautiful. The cinematography is gorgeous and makes the movie stronger. I do think the music used in the movie is very good as well.
For me, I think Mattie is the main character in True Grit. She drives everything that happens. If she hadn't decided to deal with Chaney, there wouldn't be a movie. Mattie is a very determined young woman. She has made up her mind to deal with Chaney a certain way and nothing is changing her mind. Even though she is young, she is very capable and able to take care of herself in most situations. I love the scene when she deals with a merchant, talking circles around him until she gets what she wants. When she returns later, he almost breaks out in tears when he realizes she wants to trade again. Mattie is a wonderful character and Hallie Steinfeld is amazing in the part.
Rooster Cogburn is a marshal who likes to drink and is quick to shoot. He does not have a problem with shooting and even killing people he is after. He isn't a bad buy, but he isn't fully good either. He is more complex than he seems at first. He is an interesting character and Jeff Bridges is wonderful in the part. La Boeuf is the Texas ranger who is also after Chaney. La Boeuf tends to talk a lot, even after getting a unique injury. I really like Matt Damon in the part.
I consider Tom Chaney to be the main villain since that is who Mattie is after. Chaney is just out to do what is best for him and he doesn't show remorse for things he's done. He isn't a nice guy in any way. Josh Brolin does a really good job with the part, though he doesn't get a lot to do since Chaney isn't in a lot of the movie. Barry Pepper does well in a few scenes as Ned Pepper, another criminal that Chaney hooks up with. Ned does have a history with Rooster. Several other characters are briefly seen without them being developed.
Jeff Bridges - Rooster Cogburn
Josh Brolin - Tom Chaney
Matt Damon - La Boeuf
Barry Pepper - Ned Pepper
Hailee Steinfeld - Mattie Ross
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
True Grit is a wonderful movie and one of the best movies I've seen this year. It definitely deserves to be seen, and this is coming from someone who doesn't usually like westerns.
*This review was originally posted after I saw the movie in the theater. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
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