Jan Gilbert explains why True Grit (15) is her Movie of the Month
What’s the story? A tenacious teen sets out to avenge her father’s murder with the help of the meanest US Marshal in the Wild West.
What’s it like? This hard-bitten tale of vengeance was first filmed in 1969 with John Wayne but now the Coen brothers have given the story a 21st-century kick with a shed-load of grit and a barrelful of black humour. Life is brutal on the Coens’ American frontier. Necks snap in hangings. Rattlesnakes lie in wait. The land is bare, the sky is bleak, and the wind rages eerily through the leafless trees. You can almost taste the dust flying through the air as horses gallop through the desolate landscape.
Rooster Cogburn is a hard-drinking, one-eyed US Marshal with a reputation for firing first and asking questions later. After going robotic in Iron Man and virtual in Tron: Legacy, Jeff Bridges pulls on an eye-patch to play the badass law enforcer. This isn’t Bridges’ first time in Coen country. That was in 1998 as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. As Cogburn, he’s deadpan funny as hell and very convincing. You can practically smell the stench of whisky on his breath. It’s a good job this isn’t smellyvision.
Bourne star Matt Damon is equally amusing as LaBoeuf, a self-important Texas Ranger in love with the sound of his own voice. But it’s 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who steals the show. As Mattie Ross, she’s a tough-talkin’ teen with a wit so razor-sharp it could slice through steel. She runs verbal rings round adults, including a horse-trader who doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going after cutting a deal with the whip-smart girl.
The dialogue fizzes and the action is snappy enough to make you jump. Whether you’re a die-hard Western fan, a keen Red Dead Redemption gamer, or a newbie to the Old West, True Grit is a rip roarin’ ride.
Any clever bits? LaBoeuf and Cogburn are always bickering and, in one scene, the result is a verbal punch-up over just who is the sharpest shooter. The Texas Ranger’s just been shot, but thinks he’s still a better gunslinger than the one-eyed US Marshal. Cue comedy as Cogburn falls off his horse and stumbles around drunk, tossing empty whisky bottles and cornbread in the air for target practice.
Flipside’s verdict: Go West with The Dude.
Star Rating: 5*
** All text and images are subject to copyright and may only be used with express permission.