The Coen Brothers never disappoint. Even their failures (The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading) are interesting at the very least. All of their films are full of well fleshed out characters, witty dialogue and a pension for punishment and consequences. In their new film, True Grit, it is no different. It’s just as wonderful, sharp and intriguing as any of their past work and is a worthy entry into as well.
It’s hard to say, but sometimes an audience may take their work for granted. I know sometimes I do. Statements like ‘Was it as good as No Country For Old Men?’ or ‘Nothing is better than Miller’s Crossing!’ maybe unfair but for True Grit follows most of, if not all, the Coen Brothers themes of greed in a cruel world and how people deal with money is no different then what was explored in The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink or A Serious Man. In True Grit it’s the old American western.
True Grit is the story of 14 year-old Mattie Ross (newcomer Hailey Steinfeld) and her hard nose pursuit of her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). We are introduced to Mattie through her interactions with an undertaker and and soon after a horse stable owner. Using her sharp wit and high intelligence, Mattie makes short work of getting what she wants from these men. Treated as very comical moments, these scenes tell us everything we need to know about her character. She’s smarter than you! Smart enough to know that she doesn’t have the cunning and brute force to find her father’s killer. Mattie meets and hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to make short work of her dilemma. As she puts it, ‘a man with true grit’.
Not long after hiring Rooster as her bounty hunter, Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon) is on the trail of this killer, for a separate crime all together, as well. The dynamic of both Jeff Bridges going toe to toe with Matt Damon is just simply delightful and extremely entertaining. Almost at different ends of the spectrum of bounty hunter, this pair is so lush and divine to watch. Full of witty banter and absurd situations, one of which involving a certain punishment of a little girl, is just so hilarious. But what is really on showcase are the words from the Coen Brothers.
The Coen Brothers consistently breathe life into all their characters through facial cues and short, introspective dialogue. Again, this is something to be taken for granted as the Coen Brothers are also so prolific in filmmaking. So much is said about their characters through just one simple sentence that most writers can’t do with an entire film. It is something I took out of the film the most was the sincerely, pathos and ambition of the characters in True Grit.
But at the end of the day, True Grit is a highly entertaining and thoroughly engaging film of 2010. I don’t know why I was so surprised, the Coen Brothers seem to do this every year and at the same time bring something new to the landscape of cinema, in general. All in all, True Grit is a western and does not shy away from this very violent tag. With scenes that seem so random and well executed, True Grit shows that sometimes life, on the screen, can be just full of happenstance and coincidence as life off the screen.