Can I just start by saying how I hate westerns. Too much dust and tumble weeds and not enough robots and aliens. The ‘low tech’ world just gives me the creeps. It’s miracle that we ever survived the late 1800s. Since most westerns are set in the exact same town within the mid US, they all look the same. They are all carbon clones of each other, so westerns have to rely on juicy performances and compelling storytelling. True Grit does both.
This Coen brothers remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic of the same name does a masterful job at creating characters that you fall in love with and develop a simple story that keeps you engaged. This is a straight revenge flick where its focus is about the journey than the destination. The strongest element of True Grit is the dialogue. Borrowing some from the original and adding their own, the Coen brothers provide tons of rich banter between Bridges, Damon, and new comer Hailee Steinfeld. This feels like a true period piece with references to that era and plenty of odd sayings. Regardless of the authentic visuals and outcome of the story, the dialogue alone is enough to legitimize this late comer to 2010.
Bridges, Damon, and Steinfeld form an unlikely ad-hoc family, bickering every step of the way of their journey. This trinity does an excellent job bringing their characters and turning this somewhat dark destiny into a humorous family affair. It’s another Oscar potential for Bridges (too bad we didn’t get the same effort in TRON) and it’s Damon’s best performance since Good Will Hunting. As the precocious and tenacious 14 year old, Steinfeld is probably the breakout performance of 2010, worthy of a supporting Oscar nomination. There is great tension and chemistry between the three which makes the two hours fly by.
My only complaint of the film is that the story resolution is a bit unsatisfying and the final prologue is completely unnecessary. This is not an action film but more of a study of an unusual pairing of a coming of age girl and a surrogate drunkard father figure. If you go in with a dysfunctional family drama in mind you won’t be disappointed. But even though the climax falls flat, it doesn’t sacrifice the overall experience of this well crafted genre piece- the first genre story of the Coen Brothers illustrious career.
So I loved this film despite the fact that there were no lasers, helicopters, transforming robots, or flesh-eating aliens. I guess I will have to wait till Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens .
I give this a 4 out of 5 Babbles
By the way, if you love westerns, tell me why. I just don’t get it.