True Grit Review

17 12 2010

The Coen Brothers have tackled many time periods in their films.  They’ve dipped into the 20’s, 30’s, and have expanded our views of modern times.  True Grit takes the award-winning brothers into a wholly different arena as they tackle the Western.

Even though this is the first time the Coen Brothers have ventured past the 1900’s to the wildest times of our American heritage, their incredible DP Roger Deakins has mystified us with his visual masterpieces showcasing the ol’ Wild Wild West.  Considered the most dynamic cinematographer of the last 30 years, he hasn’t done many a western, but his camera work in the 2007 THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is immediately apparent in this his latest shoot.  To accomplish the feel and look of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma  in the late 19th century the brothers and their DP filmed in Texas cities Granger and Austin.   The familiar back drop of the Lone Star State has allowed the Coens to reach legendary status.  There’s something amazing about how they capture the harsh open winters and the dry dirt filled summers (In Texas there’s only two seasons, HOT and then COLD).

photo by Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

The film will obviously be mostly reviewed on its revision of the original film, but from the opening Psalm verse the Coens remind us that they went back to the book for their blueprint.  It wasn’t there goal to recreate the original, but rather to capture the humor, harshness of the times, and the resolve of the men and women in the 1968 novel by Charles Portis.  The cadence and speed of the characters dialogue mixed in with the epic landscapes, captured by Deakins, resonates the longest after watching the film.  Then again its hard to not be mesmerized when the acting is also this good.  The Dude abides most incredibly!!  The battle over whether you’re a Duke fan or think Jeff Bridges performance is even Grittier, then the greatest Western icon, is at the heart of the film.  Its not that  hard to realize the simple switching of the “eye” that ol’ Rueban Rooster Cogburn can see from isn’t the only major difference in the actors’ portrayal of the roughest and toughest deputy marshall.

The look, the music, the acting are all top notch in this by-the-book adaptation.  The elements that stand out the most are the humor, especially the rapid-fire quick wit of young Mattie Ross, played flawlessly by Hailee Steinfeld.  It is after all Mattie’s story of revenge and not just ol’ Rooster’s tale of ass-whupping.  Now Barry Pepper may have stole the show in his short, but powerful take on Lucky Ned Pepper.  True Grit’s coldest hardest criminals stick to their word, even if it ends up causing them to be laid out dead on the open prairie.

The question of Justice in the wild west is not only discussed in the courtrooms of Arkansas but in the lonely terrain of the Indian Nation.  And what would a Coen brother’s film be without the quirky and crazy characters that pop up in the most unusual times.  Like our “medicine man” buddy who appears from the flakes of early winter snow.

Even with a slew of these wild-ass characters the tale comes down to Ol’ Rooster, Mattie and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf chasing Tom Chaney, played by the game Josh Brolin.  And it usually becomes a battle of manly wills between the two cocksure lawmen.

Dear golden globes and numerous other award nomination outfits, YOU’RE ALL MORONS for not making 2010 as rich an award season for Mr. Bridges as 2009 was.  I don’t mean to rant, but THE TOURIST got more nominations then TRUE GRIT, um is there still a GOD in the heavens?  Or better yet, I’ll end with this simple question.

WHERE’S “LA BEEF”?

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