Wednesday, March 02, 2011
#72: True Grit
The 2010 True Grit is a remake of the 1959 version that had won John Wayne his only Oscar. Both movies are adapted from the same Charles Portis novel that had at it's center a 14 year old setting out to seek revenge against her father's killer. The 2010 version of movie was nominated for 10 Oscar nominations this year and didn't win any.
With it's simple storyline, True Grit begins with a narration of how Mattie Ross' (Hailee Steinfeld) father was killed by an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). With a singularly studious intent to nail Tom Chaney down, Mattie hires a grumpy old one-eyed U.S Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Rooster Cogburn is known for his violent approach and we're introduced to his ways in a courtroom scene where he is seen casually defending some of his recent killings. It is a tried and tested method of introducing a character and in no time we know that Cogburn has scant disregard for law and believes in dispensing justice with his gun more than anything else. This suits Mattie's quest. Enter LeBeouf (Matt Damon) who is a Texas ranger who also is on the heels of Chaney. The story is about the three setting off in Chaney's pursuits through the wild west.
It is commendable that the Coen Brothers take a most cliched storyline and turn it into a money-spinning movie. Except that the entire chase that should've been a highlight ends up being hollow. How Rooster and Mattie end up landing at the exact house where Chaney and team are supposed to come at night is flimsy. How out of all the brooks in the region Mattie goes up to the exact spot where Chaney is drinking water is another inexplicable twist.
Inspite of these basic flaws, there are three things that make True Grit an almost enjoyable watch- the first of them being Jeff Bridges' and Hailee Steinfeld's performances. As Rooster goes about his business to track down Chaney, his steadily building affection towards Mattie gives the movie a likeable dimension. Rooster's dont-give-a-damn attitude is stereotypically western but fun to watch. The second is Roger Deakins' cinematography which is extremely evocative. Images from the courtroom scene, the closing shot and the climax scene are extraordinarily done. The third is the climax as Rooster Cogburn single-handedly takes on 4 outlaws against the backdrop of a desolate terrain. It is gooood old western action in it's raw form and it is gooooood!
True Grit just happens to be a movie in which Coen Brothers' reputation precedes itself. The failing of the movie is in it's story that offers no new twist. The redemption comes does come in the form of the climax but it only just about hovers around greatness, never pushing the limit, never enthralling but still zesty enough to be an agreeable watch.