True Grit: A Movie Review

 True Grit has true grit. It grabs you by the neck from the first scene and doesn’t let go until the credits roll, along with your tears–that is, if you are moved by true grit. With a stellar cast featuring Jeff Bridges (US Marshal Rooster Cogburn), Matt Damon (Texas Sheriff LaBoeuf) and Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney, the outlaw who murdered Mattie Ross’s father), we might expect first rate acting. We also would be right to anticipate a movie worthy of its notable predecessor starring John Wayne. To be sure, these men excelled in their roles. But they were not alone. For in the midst of their male bravado, swearing, and gunslinging, a young girl, 14 year old Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld),  turned their lives upside down.  Her quest to avenge her father’s death thrust her into the company of these men, and eventually led to the dramatic finale. Hailiee Steinfeld held her own brilliantly against Bridges, Damon, and Brolin. No small feat. She showed true grit in how she played her character.

For the sake of those who have not yet viewed the film, I will not disclose the ending, or even key parts of the movie. I will say that I, along with the large viewing audience, laughed out loud numerous times. The interaction between Cogburn, LaBoeuf, and Mattie was often hilarious. Yet, these moments were severely darkened by themes of revenge, sorrow, loss of innocence, and waning hope. Set to a simple piano score which emphasized the old hym “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” True Grit mixed unwitting comedy with profound brutal violence in such a way that I did not know what to expect next. It was hard to take my eyes off the screen, but the moments of violence were so  harsh that I was forced to look away. True Grit rightly portrayed the wild west as unglamorous and unforgiving, a dissonant counterpoint to its musical score. The strong primary and supporting cast was further strengthened by taut, witty writing, fantastic landscape and close-in cinematography, and brilliant directing.

True Grit is rated PG-13. There are moments of harsh swearing, and the violence truly is brutal at several points. This movie is not for the faint of heart at any age. I believe it should have been rated R. If it has been shot in 3D, then I am sure that would have occurred. Why? You will have to find out for yourself. Nuf said.

I loved this movie. I laughed. I was surprised at some plot turns. I further was caught off guard by the degree of violence. And I cried as the credits rolled with “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” being sung for the first time. That song, set against the final scene (you will have to see it for yourself), emphasized the dissonance of a tragic, hopeful story.


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