Sunday, March 27, 2011

True Grit Review

Just saw True Grit yesterday and here's my review. Sorry if it's a little long!

True Grit, from Joel and Ethan Coen, is a western that tells the story of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl who enlists two bounty hunters  to track down her father’s killer. The bounty hunters are Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges)and a Texas Ranger known simply as “LaBoeuf” (Matt Damon).

One of the first scenes involving Rooster Cogburn is a criminal trial where he is acting as a witness. I’m not sure how accurate the depiction of late-nineteenth century American western criminal court proceeding is, but it was interesting to see how similar the one in this film is to our modern day courts. For instance, the prosecutor uses the “dying declaration” exception to a hearsay objection. In fact, all of the objection I heard are still in use today. The relative lawlessness of the period becomes apparent in the testimony of Cogburn. It seems that he caught an unarmed man by surprise and shot him dead. However, as the attorney Barlow points out, the Marshall is not even on trial. I get the impression that it was easy to get away with murder in the old west. Later in the film, there are arguments over jurisdiction and other legal issues. LaBoeuf even explains the meaning of Malum in se. We forget how much jurisprudence had developed even in this remote time and place.

The Coens make a point to tell this story entirely from Mattie's perspective. They often shot scenes from her point of view. There are two POV shots in particular that stand out because I don't remember ever seeing anything like them before. They are both scenes in which unknown characters are approaching the party. The first is a scene where Mattie is high up in a tree and two people are talking below. Almost the entire exchange of dialog is shot from the perspective of the tree and the voices are so faint that the audience cannot make out what is being said. The second scene is one where LaBoeuf is in danger and Mattie is watching from a distance. Again, only snippets of dialog can be heard. This technique accomplishes two things. First, it creates suspense because the audience wants to know what is happening and is worried about the characters. Second, it forces the audience to sympathize with Mattie because we are seeing and hearing (and thus feeling) everything that she does.

The Coens strike just the right tone here.  There’s comic relief but unlike some American westerns of the 1940s and 1950s, the comedy comes from witty exchanges and one-liners instead of slapstick or broad caricatures (aside from one scene that involves a shooting contest). The subtlety works better and the audience is never taken out of the story. Also, the tone is progressive. It starts out somewhat light-hearted and darkens toward a violent conclusion.

There aren’t many modern westerns to compare it to, but True Grit stands above the two best recent examples that I have seen, The Assasination of Jesse James and 3:10 to Yuma. The period Western is a new genre for the Coen brothers to venture into but it has resulted in yet another success for them.

36 comments:

  1. HARO I AM CHINAMAN U R KUUL THNX

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  2. I am a huge Coen Brothers fan and I did love this movie, even if I did feel that they were playing it safe the entire time, it didn't feel like a true Coen brothers film without any risk taking.

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  3. nice analysis! i thought this movie was great, i think the reason i like it more was because i just finished playing red dead redemption on ps3 before i went to go see it.

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  4. Amazing review, I'm going to watch this movie now, I'm sure it wont disappoint.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. I need to go see this. I haven't seen a good movie in quite a while.

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  7. Very well done review. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I saw this movie, and I actually liked it. This was a great review!

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  9. Awesome movie, I loved it. Great review, followed.

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  10. I'm not into Westerns, but my dad can't get enough of them. Surprisingly, I don't think he's seen this...that'll have to change soon. Good review, very well-read.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this review. I will watch for more my friend. Just wait a second.

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  12. I didn't like it at all it was a boring trailer but i dont know how the movie is.

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  13. i loved the movie:) following :)

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  14. It was a good movie, nothing extraordinary though. Lately there haven't been many extraordionary movies

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  15. great review!

    following with support

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  16. Coen Brothers kicksass,their movies always a piece of art,looking forward for more reviews

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  17. Haven't watched it yet so don't want to ruin the movie. Will read your review after I've seen the film.

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  18. Actually, Questions, I don't think the review contains any spoilers so you could probably read it.

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  19. Great review, am looking forwards to seeing the film

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  20. Worth watching, but I didn't think it was as great as some people say

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  21. well then, ill have to look it up =D

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  22. totally agree with you - great movie. follow'd!

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  23. The coen brothers definately are the best! This movie was really entertaining!

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  24. Nice review. Loved that freakin movie! They just showed it at our local 1$ movie and I saw it about 3 times :D

    +follower!

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  25. Great review, I have to see this when it comes out on DVD

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  26. Can't wait to see this!

    Followed.
    bigunicorn.blogspot.com

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  27. Excellent post man! Was a really interesting read! thanks for sharing!

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  28. Nice write-up, I'll have to check this movie out.

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