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Friday, December 24, 2010

True Grit



True Grit is awesome, one of the best Westerns gracing movie screens in many a moon. From a dialogue standpoint, True Grit may even be the best Western ever made. The can-do-no-wrong brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have written three unforgettably loquacious primary characters, played by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld, who jabber on endlessly and intriguingly. Even better, they each continually get sore at each other because they think they each talk too much. When her father is killed by a desperado (played by Josh Brolin as a dimwit rather unlike any character Brolin has played before - and Brolin played George W. Bush in W.) young Hailee Steinfeld recruits Bridges, a boozy, gristled U.S. Marshall, to bring Brolin to justice - as long as she can come along for the satisfaction of apprehending her daddy's killer. (One of my favorite things in movies is when a character says the title of the movie - Steinfeld hired Bridges, despite his shoot first-drink second-no questions reputation, because he has "true grit.") Meanwhile, Damon, a proud and gallant Texas Ranger, is also looking to bring Brolin in to face Texas justice. The three set out in an uneasy alliance across the dangerous 19th century Arkansas territories to find their man, arguing, falling out, and reuniting repeatedly throughout. Especially arguing. There's never been a 14 year old girl in the Old West as headstrong and intelligent as Steinfeld. She's not full of foolish talk and she's crazy brave. None of the cowpokes and townfolk who come across Steinfield know quite how to handle such a creature. It's a wondrous performance by Steinfeld. Damon is in top form as LaBeouf (which everyone pronounces "La Beef" - wonder how many people will start calling Shia that?). As Rooster Cogburn (one of the great movie names), Bridges is magnificent - a one-eyed varmint with his own code of honor who's a crack shot (after a few tries) even when drunk. I've been assured the court room scene involving Bridges on trial for the number of men he has shot under questionable circumstances may be the most realistic ever in a movie, with flawless and proper use of actual Latin and legalese. I reckon True Grit's only flaws, but they're big ones, are the bookend voice over narration by Steinfeld's character 25 years later, followed by a useless coda showing us events that would have been perfectly satisfactory to have been revealed as an end titles crawl. Even then, True Grit is the real deal; violent, engrossing, with surprising and touching moments. Watching True Grit is as much fun as playing Red Dead Redemption, and vice versa.