Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
As my excitement to see yet another Coen Brothers take on the old west grew to a fever pitch, True Grit started to worry me. I tried to block out all the praise I was hearing to avoid putting the film on a pedestal before I even set foot in a theatre, as I wanted to view it with a completely fresh approach. This is also the reason I chose to forego seeing the John Wayne original (a classic in its own right), allowing myself an uninfluenced and unbiased opinion of the film.
What I found upon watching it was pretty standard Coen Brothers. Vibrant dialogue, stunning visuals, and an overall sense of urgency that keeps the pace on point and holds your attention until the final frame. However there was something not right about the film as a whole when I finished watching it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Was it the acting? Jeff Bridges version of Rooster Cogburn is untouchable and newcomer Hailee Stanfield (as Mattie Ross) holds her own against her Hollywood heavyweight counterparts, without skipping a beat. Hell even Barry Pepper, who in my opinion seems to steal the show at times to become a more important foe than Josh Brolin’s Tom Chaney, is impeccible in his scenes, as is Matt Damon as LeBeouf.
So if it wasn’t the scenery, which in the hands of the Coen brothers seems otherworldly in its beauty, or the acting, which again is spot on, what could it be? Upon further contemplation I began to piece it together.
As the film approached its climactic confrontation I found myself trying to guess what the big twist would be. Would Rooster die? Would Mattie? Would there be a huge train chase or a saloon gunfight? I sat and waited yet no big twist came. What transpired was completely straightforward film making, which was very well done, but it left me wanting more.
Looking back now I realize the problem. I’ve been so conditioned to feel like there has to be a huge twist in a film that I completely overlooked how refreshingly simple the outcome played out. Not only was it satisfying but it was logical! No leap of faith needed in order to maintain a suspension of disbelief. It wasn’t necessary at all for True Grit to conclude any other way, because the conclusion was poignant, elegant and completely in sync with the overall tone of the film.
Huge twist or not True Grit completely lived up to all the hype and then some, proving once again that Joel and Ethan Coen can put together a Western that’ll put dust in your lungs.