Looking Back at 2010s Films: True Grit (2010)

7 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films…is it possible for a film to be nominated for 10 Oscars and not win a single one? I didn’t think so, until I checked the awards for the Coen Brothers’ 2010 adaptation of “True Grit!”

DAMN, and to think the 1969 John Wayne version won 1 out of 2.

The John Wayne version is as classic a Western as they come–a joyous, enthralling, and “gritty” frontier adventure. The Coen Brothers’ version plays the story differently…it’s not as joyous as the other. That makes it more interesting.

All the fun you can find in a young girl’s bloodthirsty quest to find her father’s killer and bring him to justice is GONE. This journey is as gritty as they come. And the ending hammers in effectively just what this crusade has done to this child.

And I’m going to talk about the ending, so…SPOILER ALERT!!!

Mattie Ross loses her arm from the snake bite, she and Rooster Cogburn never see each other again, and she grows up bitter and cold, an old maid with clearly no love in her heart. This might be the Coens’ way of saying someone this young being so dedicated to vengeance leads to a life of misery. That’s how the film ends! John Wayne doesn’t ride merrily into the sunset, there’s no happy ending (though not really a “sad” ending either), it just…ends. You can barely even argue that it even “ends” so much as “stops.” I actually found that pretty intriguing. It stayed with me more than the ending of the John Wayne movie.

END OF SPOILERS!!!

Hailee Steinfeld is brilliant as Mattie Ross, and there’s no way you can convince me that she deserved a Best SUPPORTING Actress nomination–the film is ABOUT HER CHARACTER! (They should’ve switched her out with Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” for the Best Actress nod.)

Jeff Bridges is also perfect as Rooster Cogburn. He vanishes in the role of a dirty, nasty, mean-as-hell fighter of justice, which admittedly is more than I could say for John Wayne who played it almost too “safe.”

Also great is Matt Damon as the Texas bounty hunter. He plays the role as a hero from a different movie who isn’t too keen on playing second-fiddle to Mattie and Rooster’s story.

And the supporting cast is solid too, from Josh Brolin as the killer to Barry Pepper as the gang leader Ned Pepper (wait, what?) to…hey wait, is that Domhnall Gleeson as Moon?? Holy crap, I just noticed when watching this film again today! He’s definitely come a long way since having his fingers cut off…especially that horrible line reading. (You know the one–“Oh Lord…I’m dying!”)

And of course being a film lensed by Roger Deakins, it looks great. Under the shadow of the Coens and these fine performances, we’re also taken through a dark, grey, compelling world where anything can happen and anyone can die. Let me see, was this film nominated for Best Cinematography….?

Yes it was. (Whew–it would’ve surprised me if that WASN’T one of the 10 Oscars it was nominated for.)

There is some much appreciated levity sprinkled throughout, so the film isn’t so gritty that it’s depressing. But pit one “True Grit” against the other, and it just depends on the kind of movie you prefer–one that’s overall lighthearted or one that’s overall compelling.

For me, though, I prefer the latter.

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