Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin,
Barry Pepper, Paul Rae
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.truegritmovie.com/
Opening Day: 24 February 2011
Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross's (Hailee Steinfeld) father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), she sets out with him - over his objections - to hunt down Chaney. Her father's blood demands that she pursue the criminal into Indian territory and find him before a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) catches him and brings him back to Texas for the murder of another man.
The respected American Film Institute defines western films as those “set in the American West that embod[y] the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier”. That is one profound definition of a Western film, if you ask us. But being the ignorant contemporaries that we are, we may not realise that this film genre was a hit in classic Hollywood, where cowboys, gunslingers and bounty hunters dominated the screens and had every other boy wanting to wear a cowboy hat and use a revolver. Girls, of course, would be the ones swooning over the suave leading men of these Western films, regardless of how dirty they looked after riding through dusty towns and cattle ranches.
And it is with this Oscar nominated film by the Coen brothers that we are introduced to the thrills and spills of living life in the Wild, Wild West.
A second adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name, this version has a 14 year old farm girl setting out into the wild to hunt down her father’s killer. She engages the assistance of a US Marshal who has “true grit”. Against his will, she goes along on the hunt and is joined by a Texas Ranger who has ulterior motives to come on this trip. The trio then embarks on a treacherous journey made perfect by the ingenious filmmakers’ writing and directing.
You have to take your hats off Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, the award winning duo who gave the world inspired and clever films like Fargo (1996), Burn After Reading (2008) and A Serious Man (2009). In the process of bringing viewers into the glorious worlds of the splendid Western genre, the Coen brothers have injected their own brand of poetic splendour into their latest work. Viewers familiar with their writing can immediately identify with the signature language used in the screenplay. Charmingly quirky, the film’s 110 minute runtime is filled with elegantly written lines which will please those who appreciate good writing.
Forget the duo’s previous Western movie No Country for Old Men (2007), which was somewhat too modern for its own good, or worse still, Barry Sonnenfeld’s mess that was known as Wild Wild West (1999) starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Why? Because this is about the most faithful Western flick you can get from today’s filmmakers.
Kudos also go to the capable cast for effortlessly portraying the stock characters whose every action seem predictable in this day and age of irrelevant plot twists and turns. Jeff Bridges, who has earned another Best Actor nomination at the upcoming Oscars, is a joy to watch. His cranky and drunk portrayal as the US Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn demands your attention every second he appears on screen. His co star, Hailee Steinfeld, is surprisingly a natural at commanding screen presence. For her breakout role, she has been nominated at various international film awards, and is up against some very strong competition in the Best Supporting Actress category at the 83rd Academy Awards. Somewhat overlooked are Matt Damon who plays a very amusing Texas Ranger, Josh Brolin who takes on the role as a murderer and Barry Pepper who undergoes a transformation to become the film’s lead baddie. This fine ensemble is one of the biggest reason why this is one of the best American films in cinema history.
Besides the two acting nominations, the well produced film has also been nominated in eight other categories, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
This is clearly the work of two guys who know what cinema is all about. From the hymns referenced in the score composed by Carter Burwell and the splendid Western backdrops captured by cinematographer Roger Deakins, to the witty biblical and religious references to reflect the way of life in the Wild, Wild West, this work should naturally come highly recommended – simply because it has got that old school appeal and heart.
(This charismatic work by two of today’s best directors showcases an ensemble of fine actors and a gracefully written script )
Review by John Li