Sunday 9 October 2011

True Grit (2011) - Ethan & Joel Coen

Fans of the Coen brothers' films will praise this entry into the directors' canon; others will probably find themselves bored stiff.

True Grit is a fairly straightforward Western revenge tale.  After her father is murdered, young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) searches for a man with true grit to avenge his death.  By losing her father, she discovers two father figures in Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and LaBoeuf (Matt Damon); together they set off across the wild, snowy desert of the midwest in search of their man.  However, the plot holds little dramatic impetus - the real focus is the unlikely relationship that flourishes between the three protagonists.  Typical of the buddy film it grows from strength to strength and subverts obvious stereotypes, with Mattie the one with true grit compared to the bickering old men. 

It's one of the Coen's more watchable, classically told films, yet it remains slow.  The emphasis is ultimately (and perhaps self-indulgently) the filmmaking - sweeping shots of delicately snow-tinged landscapes reveal the veritable beauty of the wild west.  Certainly the cinematography is highly commendable.  Hailee Steinfeld's performance as the precocious Mattie deserves praise, even just for the fact she's the only actor who doesn't mumble their way through the peculiar dialogue.  Bridges and Damon may be believable in their respective roles, but there's no point being there if you fail to enunciate, losing the wittier moments of the script.  Additionally, the music is utilised in an utterly cliched manner, particularly during the climax which borders on schmoltz.  Unfortunately, no amount of stunning shots can hide the fact that True Grit is, very disappointingly, less than thrilling.