Saturday, February 12, 2011
After displaying a bit of True Grit myself this week (see post below) it was a pleasure to reward myself with a daytime movie, the Coen Brothers remake of the 1969 Western of the same name (itself based on a novel by Charles Portis). Being neither familiar with the novel or earlier screen version I went in cold drawn by a twin love of these two film makers and the genre itself. All I need to hear is 'men bearing guns on horseback galloping across dusty plains' to gladly whip out my $18.50. It did not disappoint but it was not what I was expecting either. What was I expecting? Being the Coen Bros I think I expected more irony, more quirk. But this is a film that plays it very straight, almost to the point of plainness. No characters or performances bigger than life itself. And as a Western I had grown accustomed to expecting majestic landscapes and taciturn men. Instead, True Grit is the story of a plucky 14 year old heroine (played with steely poise by newcomer Haille Steinfeld) hell bent on seeing the capture of her father's killer at the hands of a criminal (the wonderfully dense Josh Brolin) with the assistance of an alcoholic trigger happy U.S. Marshall (Jeff Bridges) and a vain, proud Texas Ranger (Matt Damon). This is a film with a great deal of conversation: deals are endlessly being brokered, plans are made and unmade as the three pursue Tom Chaney through the Indian lands. I was won over by the films sense of morality, touched by the mostly unexpressed affection between its characters and moved by its vision of the Frontier as a place much like the landscape that the trio passes through; neither welcoming nor forbidding, and capable of delivering brutality and beauty in equal measure. It rang true.