Western Movies Month 2 – True Grit 2010

Although Western movies are often associated with the 50s and early 60s, there are quite a few modern Western movies as well. It’s only fair that I review at least one modern Western for this theme month. Enter True Grit, the 2010 adaptation of Charles Portis’s 1968 novel of the same name. This is the second on-screen adaptation of the novel, with 1969’s adaptation starring John Wayne. Although the earlier adaptation was well received, it’s generally considered that the newer version is the better one.

Directed by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, True Grit mostly follows Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old farm girl who wants to pursue the man who murdered her father. She hires a U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, while also interacting frequently Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Although there are other characters throughout, these are the only major characters in the movie.

Mattie is played by Hailee Steinfeld, and she’s quite convincing as an intelligent young woman, who is determined to see her father’s murderer brought to justice. Jeff Bridges plays the U.S. Marshal, an old, one-eyed alcoholic who is known for being brutal and short on mercy. Matt Damon rounds out the trio as the Texas Ranger, and he brings a good balance of reason and charisma, with a touch of arrogance to the role.

These three characters really don’t get along at first. Mattie and the Marshal spend a lot of time in the first half of the movie trying to outsmart each other, or otherwise bickering. The Marshal and the Ranger can’t seem to decide whether they want to work together, or race each other to find the murderer first. That is, when they’re not competing to figure out who’s the better shot. There’s also the issue of, which bounty do they chase after? After all, the murderer (played by Josh Brolin) also killed a Texas State Senator, hence why they sent a Ranger after him.

This is the kind of movie where, the less said about the story beyond that, the better. It’s not that the story is all that surprising, but it’s better to watch how everything plays out. The title is fairly appropriate, as all three characters have their own form of grit. Mattie is clearly the most determined of the three, having personal reasons to pursue the murderer. She also proves to be tough in her own way, even if she’s out of her depth chasing a notorious criminal.

The decision to focus the movie on Mattie was made early on, as the book is entirely from her point of view. The search for an actress between 12 and 16 was exhaustive, as they had to search through 15,000 applicants. “It was, as you can probably imagine, the source of a lot of anxiety,” Ethan said. “We were aware that if the kid doesn’t work, there’s no movie.”

The film was mostly shot between Santa Fe, New Mexico and several towns and cities in Texas, including Bartlett, Granger and Austin. With a fairly low-budget by today’s standards, it cost no more than $38 million to film. It ended up earning $252 million, making it very successful. Not only did it become the Coen brothers’ most profitable movie to date, but it was the only movie of the 2010 holiday season to exceed revenue expectation.

The movie did very well with the critics as well, scoring a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8.3/10. Roger Ebert gave it 3.5/4 stars, saying “What strikes me is that I’m describing the story and the film as if it were simply, if admirably, a good Western. That’s a surprise to me, because this is a film by the Coen Brothers, and this is the first straight genre exercise in their career.” The Los Angeles Times review gave the movie 4 out of 5, praising the movie sticking to the bleak tone of the novel, while staying true to their black comedy that they’re known for. Time Magazine specifically praised Steinfeld’s performance, saying “She delivered the orotund dialogue as if it were the easiest vernacular, stares down bad guys, win hearts. That’s a true gift.”

In addition to critical praise, True Grit was nominated for 10 different Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Bridges and Steinfeld both received acting nominations, among others. It felt a bit odd that Steinfeld’s acting nomination was for Supporting Actress, when she was basically the main character though. It didn’t win any Oscars, but it did win Best Cinematography at the BAFTAs. Steinfeld won several acting awards, including Best Supporting Actress at the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association, among others.

Speaking of Steinfeld, although she made several appearances beforehand, this was her breakout role. She’s since appeared in movies like Bumblebee (the only Transformers movie I like), voiced Spider-Gwen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (amazing movie), and is also in Pitch Perfect 2 and 3.

True Grit is a great Western movie. It’s a straight forward story that’s fairly grim, but in order to feature three characters who each live up to the movie’s title, that’s necessary. It also works as an adventure movie, with touches of dark comedy spread throughout. I haven’t seen it before preparing this review, but it’s one that I’ll likely watch again at some point. Easy recommendation for fans of the genre, even if you’re just a casual fan.

Next week, I’ll be looking at The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I have seen it before, but that was a long time ago. Then I’ll wrap it up with something a bit different, but it’s the first live-action Western movie I ever saw, and even if it’s not exactly a straight Western, it remains my favourite.


About healed1337

I am a relatively new comic book fan writing this blog for other new comic book fans and/or people who are interested in comics but don't know where to start. I've always been interested in writing, to the point where I have a college Creative Writing Certificate and I'm currently a year 2 Journalism student. I also have another blog where I mostly make fun of bad movies - www.healed1337.blogspot.com As for how I got into comics, I've always had a passing interest in superheroes: most notably Batman, Spider-man and the X-Men. Until February of 2011 (I think,) my only experience with any of these franchises came from the movies and video games. Shortly after I bought Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 however, I decided to check out X-23, Wolverine's female clone. I ended up reading her Innocence Lost origin story and enjoyed it. From there, I started reading various X-Men comics and it quickly exploded into my newest hobby. My other interests/hobbies include video games, movies, music, playing sports, my dogs and weird news.
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4 Responses to Western Movies Month 2 – True Grit 2010

  1. Paul Bowler says:

    This was a great western film of True Grit. It’s one of those movies that really just draws you in and gets you hooked on the characters. I do like a good wester and this is one of my favourites.


  2. I really appreciated the Coen Brother’s take on this book. The casting was excellent and the dynamic between these characters was really wonderful. I do love it when they get Western movies right nowadays!


  3. Pingback: Western Movies Month 4 – Shanghai Noon | healed1337

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