True Grit
dir-scr Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
prd Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
with Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Dakin Matthews, Paul Rae, Domhnall Gleeson, Elizabeth Marvel, Roy Lee Jones, Ed Corbin, Candyce Hinkle
release US 22.Dec.10, UK 14.Jan.11
10/US Paramount 1h43

True Grit
Tough cookies: Bridges and Steinfeld

damon brolin pepper
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
True Grit The Coen brothers return to the Charles Portis novel (rather than remaking the 1969 John Wayne movie) for this lean and riveting Western. It's a thoroughly involving story, with feisty characters and a wicked sense of humour.

Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) may be only 14 but she's determined to avenge the murder of her father by the outlaw Chaney (Brolin), who has fled into Indian territory. She tenaciously convinces gruff US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to take the case, rejecting the help of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who's been hunting Chaney for months. She also refuses to sit back and wait, riding out with Cogburn to chase Chaney down. Sure, this is no undertaking for a young girl, but Mattie may have more true grit than everyone else combined.

The Coens approach this story with dry, spare filmmaking that finds deadpan comedy in the most unexpected places. And they keep the focus tightly on the characters. Everyone revolves around Mattie, and is seen through her steely young eyes, which makes them all feel mythical and just a bit nostalgic, although the film's sentimentality is as rough as Rooster's unshaven face.

The cast is perfect, from Bridges blustery swagger to Damon's naive pomposity. And even smaller side roles are packed with witty, telling detail. But Steinfeld anchors the film beautifully, fully inhabiting this brilliantly well-written character and surprising us (and the characters around her) in every scene. Her interaction with everyone she meets is charged with grim resolve, often both hilarious and scary at the same time. Nobody ever takes her seriously. At their peril.

Meanwhile, the Coens' writing and direction are simply gorgeous, delicately dancing through the story with snappy dialog and telling action that never quite goes the way we think it will. All of this is accompanied by Roger Deakins' expansive, bone-dry cinematography and a particularly gorgeous score by Carter Burwell, which echoes church hymns as well as the classic thriller Night of the Hunter. And while the drama itself might be a bit too simple for the film to be a classic in its own right, it's a thoroughly entertaining ride.

cert 15 themes, violence 13.Dec.10

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