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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » February 25, 2011
Film review
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True Grit
February 25, 2011   
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With 10 Academy Award nominations, the newest offering from the Coen brothers has been outdone only by British biopic The King’s Speech, which has nabbed 12 nominations.

True Grit cost $38 million to make and so far has taken $150 million at the American box office. The movie is a remake of Henry Hathaway’s classic from 1969, which brought Western legend John Wayne his only Oscar. What the Coens have come up with can be classified as an anti-Western, a sub-genre frequently traced back to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven of 1992, which in its time garnered nine Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars. Anti-Westerns strip the Wild West of its romantic appeal, portraying it as a dreary, dirty and repulsive land populated by dreary, dirty and repulsive men who are nothing like characters from The Magnificent Seven by John Sturges. Nasty bandits are chased by equally nasty, money-motivated “good guys.”

So here we are in Oklahoma, 1880. When Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin—No Country for Old Men, Wall Street; Money Never Sleeps, W.) murders his employer, the victim’s eldest daughter Mattie (a fantastic screen debut for Hailee Steinfeld), a girl mature beyond her years, hires an aging sheriff called Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges—K-PAX, Arlington Road, Fearless).

Mattie believes in an “an eye for an eye,” while Cogburn is reputed to be a man of “true grit.” His job is to either kill Chaney or bring him to the gallows. The two team up with a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon—Departed, Invictus, Jason Bourne series), who is hunting Chaney over the killing of a Texas senator.

True Grit is reminiscent of another anti-Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford directed by Andrew Dominik (2007). What the two films have in common is that most of the characters are, putting it bluntly, primitive, unreasoning morons. The fearless Cogburn is a disgusting drunk who, taking aim at bandits, ends up shooting his partner in the arm instead. The Texas bounty hunter walks towards four outlaws on horses and lets himself get ensnared by a lasso without so much as firing off a single shot. The movie’s main villain, in turn, lets a 14-year-old girl take him by surprise twice. In contrast, the aforementioned 14-year-old manages to get the better of just about any adult she encounters, talking at them like a Harvard Law School graduate. Trying to find any sense in the script is futile. The movie is very slow-paced and at times plain boring. Still, for some unknown reason, viewers do not seem to mind.

Like The Assassination of Jesse James, True Grit boasts superb cinematography—no surprise given that both pictures were shot by Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, Kundun, The Shawshank Redemption), a nine-time Academy Award nominee who is a master of his craft. The visuals are complemented by a score by Carter Burwell (Ladykillers, Fargo, Rob Roy) and it shall remain a secret of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences why Burwell is not among this year’s nominees.
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