True Grit (2010) Review
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We’ve already seen the latest from award season regulars like George Clooney (The American) and Clint Eastwood (Hereafter). But no award season would be complete without the latest quirky adventure from the Coen Brothers. This year, though, the Oscar-winning brothers tone down the comedy and hop on their horses for the Wild West adventure, True Grit.

Inspired more by Charles Portis’s novel than the 1969 film, the Coens’ True Grit stars last year’s Oscar-winning best actor, Jeff Bridges, as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn—the role that won John Wayne his one and only Oscar.

Marshal Cogburn may be old and fat and a little too attached to his whiskey, but he always gets his man. And that’s why 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) decides to hire him to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father.

But Mattie isn’t the only one who wants Chaney brought to justice. Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) wants to bring him back to Texas and collect a sizable reward. But that isn’t good enough for Mattie. She intends to be there to see Chaney brought to justice—even if it means joining Cogburn on the treacherous journey into Indian territory.

This may not be the first time that the Coens have attempted to remake a classic (and 2004’s The Ladykillers wasn’t exactly a screaming success)—but, with True Grit, they’ve managed to improve on a classic.

For the most part, the Coens play it straight, making True Grit feel like a classic Western—complete with grand, sweeping landscapes, fearless heroes, dastardly, no-good villains, and (of course) a shootout or two. But it still retains just a twinkle of the Coens’ trademark sharp dialogue and quick wit.

In fact, the tone of the entire movie is lighter, more comical. Bridges’s Cogburn is just as gruff and crusty than Wayne’s—maybe even more so. But he’s more of a comedic character. Never far from his whiskey bottle, he’s known to ramble on about his travels, his past, and his ex-wife. And even when things get serious—and the bullets start flying—Cogburn’s banter with LaBoeuf keeps it from getting too heavy.

Steinfeld’s Mattie, on the other hand, is all business. She’s stubborn and determined (albeit rather blindly so), and she’s wise well beyond her years. At the same time, though, she also brings a kind of childlike enthusiasm to the adventure. It’s a tricky role—one that could have easily come off as either obnoxiously precocious or fluffy and naïve. But Steinfeld’s breakout performance is the film’s best—and she shows that, just like her character, she can hold her own, even when she’s running with the big (Oscar-winning) boys.

Thanks to its strong characters and its muted but still unmistakable Coen brothers humor, True Grit stays faithful to the genre while adding an entertaining twist. It’s a rootin’ tootin’ Western with the right blend of grit and wit.

Blu-ray Review:
Just like the movie itself, the Blu-ray release of True Grit is just right—with a great collection of short extras that cover a wide range of topics.

Most of the options on the special features menu are short and sweet—around three to five minutes long, with just a few exceptions. These short featurettes cover everything from the costumes and props to the various members of the cast. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld gets a few minutes of her own to talk about the journey—and it’s refreshing to see that the adorable young actress carries herself remarkably well. The Coen Brothers’ faithful cinematographer, Roger Deakins, also gets a few minutes to share his thoughts on some of the film’s breathtaking imagery—and to show some of the movie’s best shots.

The disc’s longest feature is the 30-minute Charles Portis: The Greatest Writer You’ve Never Heard Of…, in which writers, filmmakers, historians, and others discuss what makes Portis and his work so significant. Though the somewhat reclusive author himself makes just one brief appearance in some archive footage, the feature offers plenty of information about his history, his works, and his legacy. And while it may not be the most entertaining feature, it will most likely inspire you to run out and pick up at least one of Portis’s novels.

As is generally the case with Coen Brothers movies, you won’t find much of the Coens themselves in the extras—but what you will find is a little bit of something for every taste and interest. There isn’t a bad feature in the bunch—and, since most of them are so short, they don’t require a huge time commitment. So if your interest in True Grit goes even the slightest bit deeper than just enjoying the Oscar-nominated film, be sure to take a few minutes to peruse the extras.

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