Donovahn Wyatt is a movie critic for the Samford Crimson. The views expressed in this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Samford Crimson or Samford University.
Figure 1: “True Grit” (2010) Poster. From IMDB
A major criticism of the film industry during the 2010s was the perceived overreliance on remakes and reboots of existing properties. While these movies were financially successful, most of the time they were seen as inferior to the original versions. The film I’m discussing today is a different case.
“True Grit” (2010) is a western film directed by the Coen Brothers. It stars Jeff Bridges as deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in the leading roles. It is an adaptation of the Charles Portis’ novel of the same name. There was a previous film adaptation made in 1969, which starred John Wayne. In a 2009 interview, Ethan Coen stated that this version would be a more faithful adaptation of the novel compared to the previous film. The 1969 version used the deputy marshal as the focal character. In the novel and in the 2010 movie adaptation, Ross was the focal character.
The plot follows 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross seeking revenge for her father’s murder by enlisting the help of a drunken lawman. The murderer, Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin), is also being tracked by a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf (Matt Damon), who helps Ross and Cogburn in their journey. As the dangerous adventure ensues, the protagonists have their grit tested in a variety of ways as they hunt down Cheney.
Figure 2: Steinfeld as Mattie Ross and Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. From IMDB
The film is expertly produced from beginning to end. The Coen brothers’ distinctive writing style translates effectively into a gritty western. Their use of foreshadowing throughout the story is a major credit to their tight scripting. This is further exemplified via the use of humor interspersed throughout the film. It also has a strong visual identity. “Grit” isn’t just relevant to the overall theme of the movie. It also sums up look the look and tone of this film. There’s a grimy feel to the overall project that immerses you in the wild west. The excellent production values are further showcased in the use of outdoor sets and costuming.
Even though the movie relies on the tropes found in westerns (this is an adaptation of a book that’s over 50 years old after all), one’s eyes stay glued to the screen, thanks to the phenomenal performances on display. Bridges may have top billing, but Steinfeld steals the show. This was her first major movie production, yet she exudes a level of confidence that keeps you engrossed with her story throughout the film. Bridges is no slouch either, bringing his A-game throughout the film. His physical acting lends to the comedy found in Cogburn’s drunken antics.
There’s one part of the movie that I found lacking, which came from Brolin as Tom Cheney. While his performance was excellent, I feel he was criminally underutilized throughout the film. Cheney only shows up in the last 20 minutes of the movie. His character was built up effectively, but I wish we could’ve seen a little bit more of him before the final act.
Overall, “True Grit” is an effective piece of western cinema with great acting, visuals and excellent shootout scenes in an overall enjoyable package.
Coen, Joel and Ethan Coen, directors. True Grit. Paramount, 2010.
“True Grit (2010 Film).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Sept. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Grit_(2010_film).
“True Grit Exclusive – Movies News at IGN.” IGN Advertisement, 16 Feb. 2010, web.archive.org/web/20111016184724/uk.movies.ign.com/articles/103/1039283p1.html.
“True Grit.” IMDb, IMDb.Com, 22 Dec. 2010, www.imdb.com/title/tt1403865/?ref_=ttmi_tt. Accessed 17 Sept. 2023.