“They tell me you’re a man with true grit”
True Grit is a film I have wanted to see since I first saw the trailers for it almost six years ago. Nominated for ten Academy Awards and seven BAFTAs (winning Best Cinematography at the latter), Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 take on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis is as visually stunning as it is acted. Hailee Steinfeld knocks it out of the park as fourteen year old Mattie Ross, a young girl on a mission to get revenge on the man who murdered her father. She enlists the help of a reluctant U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, played by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon respectfully to aid her on her journey of finding this man.
Despite being critically acclaimed, I’ve found public opinion on this film to be very fifty fifty. Many favour the original 1969 film directed by Henry Hathaway as a cinematic classic, whilst others simply don’t really like the style the Coen Brother’s produce. Some simply can’t stand the authentic drawl of the dialect – though I too admit I would have appreciated subtitles at some points of the film. I personally adore the Coen Brothers and their distinct style of storytelling. Every one of their films has their signature all over it from script to screen and it’s their personal stamp on their films that make them successful as a team. Their take on this classic Western is stunning, gripping and moving, from the beginning voiceover to the ending one.
I applaud and am totally in awe of Roger Deakins’ work as cinematographer in this film. The shots are so reminiscent of old Western movies made in the fifties and sixties; with scenes fading into one another; classic hand on the gun frames and horses galloping along the horizon. It was a tough year for award season, and True Grit narrowly missed out on a wave of awards up against the massive successes of The King’s Speech and Black Swan, but I am pleased that Deakin’s was awarded for his sublime work with a BAFTA trophy.
For me, the special part of the film is Hailee Steinfeld. From her first appearance in the film she demands your full attention in a totally un-cocky way. She presents the character as nothing less than determined, on a decided mission driven not by anger or grief, but for what is right. Her characterisation is so flawless it’s hard to remember that this is a fourteen year old, alone in the Indian Nations surrounded by men twice her age. I adore the character, and remain amazed by the actor. Steinfeld truly broke into the scene as a young teenager and proved her worth as a talented actress in a film lead by so many highly regarded actors. Hailee Steinfeld is only a couple of months older than me, so seeing her be nominated for prestigious awards such as Oscars and BAFTAs as a result of her performance as Mattie left me so inspired, and gave me a sense of my dream being attainable.
And of course, I need to talk about the costuming. Absolutely second to none, so perfect for each character and brilliant at presenting a more modern take on classic Western ‘cowboy’ type films. Each character is presented so clearly and true to themselves in their clothing; with a worn in and dusted coat, hat and distinct eye patch for the tough drunk Rooster; soft suede’s, tassels and badges for LeBoeuf and oversized coats cinched in by tied belts for the determined runaway Mattie Ross. Mary Zophres perfect fully captures the nature and stories behind each character in an unobvious, try manner.
I’m really very happy I was finally able to see this film. To conclude – really don’t let the film’s slight slow start put you off, as the ending is moving enough to make you hold back tears. And maybe stick the subtitles on to fully understand any of Jeff Bridges’ lines.