The Coen Brothers are back and I have to say it’s about time but at the same time it isn’t about time. Their last film was the critically acclaimed film A Serious Man of whom this film viewer did not enjoy in the slightest. Prior to their forray into the Jewish community was their 2008 flop Burn After Reading which featured George Clooney and Brad Pitt. While most audiences failed to accept that film I loved it, thought it was better than their award winning film No Country for Old Men. But it appears that the brothers, now in their fifties, have seemingly abandoned the style of film that made them famous. Gone are the days when films like Fargo and The Big Lebowski are made, simple films, with dark humor and splendid writing. Sure their recent films are big on writing and acting but does it hold a candle to what made them who they are? Probably not. And now with 2010 coming to a close the brothers put out their reunion with 2009 Oscar Winning actor Jeff Bridges (the star of The Big Lebowski) in True Grit.
While True Grit is not an original film from the brothers it stems from the a film way back in the times of John Wayne. In fact this is the only film that ever brought the star of the cowboy westerns any Academy Awards. But granted from the lips of the older folk who have seen both this new version and the old one claim that the Coen’s focus more on the novel than the John Wayne starring feature of the olden times. Now that I have wasted almost 300 words let’s move onto the actual review.
True Grit is a western film for starters. An older Mattie is narrating the story from the past as she describes her tale of how she (Hailee Steinfeld) is looking to avenge her father’s death at the hands of a man named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She enters town and begins to search for a man who will help her hunt down this elusive man. She finds through the sheriff after a hanging session about a man by the name of “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Of course getting Cogburn to join her is a challenge in itself. As she finally coarses him into going she encounters a Texas Ranger by the name of La Boeuf (Matt Damon) who is after the same man. Cogburn and La Boeuf leave without her and reach an agreement but Mattie is a feisty lil bugger and she follows them.
Through a series of mishaps the two males split and go on separate ways and then through violent and unlikely circumstances meet up and are thus forced to team up. Eventually the film reaches it’s climax of which has our young lady heroine finding the dastardly man who killed her father. What happens next would be considered spoiling the film.
It seems that in Hollywood these days writing an original script is totally hard and difficult and that is why every single film these days seems to either be a remake or a sequel or based off of something. Guess the Coen’s got tired of being original with their previous films and decided to adapt something and make it easier for them to write. While the script is well written and phenomenal I can’t help but feel things were left out for the purpose of leaving them out. While as the film progresses we see Cogburn’s character develop and change frequently and eventually becoming the hero of the film we don’t see Mattie evolve nearly as much and she is a central figure in the film.
It feels like even La Boeuf gets development through the film as he goes from a cocky Texas Ranger to a more humble man willing to work with the old coot to achieve the same goal. This could be more noticable in these two characters due to the experience that both Damon and Bridges have in character acting. While the script follows a basic format of film, set up characters, introduce plot, follow plot, add one twist minimum, then close out plot it feels like at least the dialogue was well written. The Coen’s are notorious for the dialogue in their films fitting the time and place as well as the group aimed for. In Lebowski the way The Dude (Jeff Bridges as well) talks fits the proper time and place for his character, I feel like they do the same here.
Since I just mentioned it let’s talk acting. This film is carried mainly by it’s true star power. Steinfeld in her first role is amazing. Sure she’s a young girl but the way she carries herself as well as handles herself with the big names of Bridges, Damon and Brolin is impressive. This girl, much unlike Dakota Fanning, has a future in the acting business. Brolin is the next man on the list. I haven’t really seen too much of him in the past. I know he is a good actor, I know he has the talent and you know what Jonah Hex really didn’t give him that opportunity. Here his character sounds a little bit special as well as slow and dim witted. Brolin pulls off a convincing role in this film albeit he is only in it for a short period of time.
I really have fallen in love with Matt Damon of late. Not really like in love but more so with his acting. I find him the better of him and Ben Affleck who I should do a hate post on one day just to get my point across why I truly dislike him. Damon has become one of those actors who is superior to most of his peers even in a bad film. His role here was rather well done. The biggest complaint I have is that he cannot have a good Texan accent. He does a good job bringing his character to life to a certain extent as we watch the film, the more he is in it the more we grow to like him and watch him change. This is generally a good sign for a character but more so for the actor.
I’ve saved the best for last in Bridges. I’ll admit I am a huge fan boy of his. Love every film I have seen him in and this one is no exception. Bridges does a phenomenal job carrying this film and bringing it to the potential that it shouldn’t have reached. His southern drawl as well as I don’t give a shit attitude grows on you and you laugh at him but when it comes down to business he is serious as serious gets. Roger Ebert once made a comment about how Bridges is an actor’s actor and that is no doubt seen through his should be award winning performance as each line leaves his lips with such heart.
Now the tech stuff. While the Coen’s are great directors and writers they seem to have missed a few things here. Match Cuts according to my Post Production professor are something you should avoid at all costs. They are when you move from one moving shot to another like moving shot. This destroys the suspense of reality and makes the viewer realize they are watching a movie. On top of that several of the dissolves as well as cuts were too awkward thus destroying the entire illusion that we are part of the story.
On the final straw since I am tired and this review feels like it’s taking forever and I blame James Kastle for that talking my ear off I want to say how much this movie made me think of Red Dead Redemption and how badly I want to fire up my PlayStation 3 and just play the ever loving shit out of it.