★ ★ ★ 1/2
I had high expectations for this film going into it; perhaps, too high. This is the Coen Brothers take on the Charles Portis novel of the same name. As much as it tries to be a quality adaptation of the novel along with keeping the Coen’s quirky edge, it somewhere misses the mark in being a truly great film. It’s not a bad film, and like I said, perhaps my expectations were too high due to all the hype at the end of last year, but this film didn’t strike me as a 10 best of the year by any means. If that’s the case, 2010 was a worse year for filmmaking than I originally thought.
As mentioned above, the film is based on the Charles Portis novel; it is the second adaptation of the book to film, the first being Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version with John Wayne. When an outlaw known as Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders young Mattie Ross’s (Hailee Steinfeld) father over a petty gambling altercation, the young girl seeks justice. A quick witted and intelligent lad, Mattie seeks out a man with “true grit” to help track down Chaney and the outlaw gang he has made acquaintance with in the Indian Territory. She finds her man in dirty, drunk U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). He reluctantly agrees to help her; they are further aided by a Texas Ranger who has a bounty to claim himself for Chaney, LaBoef (Matt Damon). They set out for their man and, eventually, track him down after several various altercations.
The acting in the film was very good. Jeff Bridges delivered, as usual, and the girl, Hailee Steinfeld, who played Mattie Ross was incredible in her debut role. Apparently, the Coen’s auditioned 15,000 girls for the part before deciding on Steinfeld. The source material seems interesting as well; it’s bare bones and fairly straight forward in plot, but seems like a good premise for a western. However, somewhere along the lines, this film just lost steam for me. Primarily, I think, during the final showdown, which I thought should have a level or bravura to it to make it epic. In reality, it seemed rushed and quickly lead into the denouncement.
All in all, I didn’t dislike the film. It was a movie I could watch and say, “Well, that was good.” When many critics put this on their best of lists and a lot of my contemporaries recommended the movie, however, to the point of my expectations growing very high – this movie just doesn’t add up completely.