Sunday, February 13, 2011

True Grit, True Class

This is a time for great films. Don't know why, maybe the studios have started to understand the value of brilliant scripting and superb acting over blockbusting, sequels and effects. Whatever the reason, I hope there's more to come. Much attention has been deservedly given to those superlative films "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan", both of whose main actors are up for Oscars which they richly deserve. You can add to that consummate coupling an equally outstanding third film, the Coen Brothers' remake of "True Grit".

The story is a straightforward revenge quest, as a girl hires a US Marshal who has seen better days to help her hunt her father's killer. What turns this relatively simple story into a masterpiece of modern cinema is a combination of sparkling scripting, with the spare dialogue leaping off the screen at you; cinematography on a scale grand and well observed enough to truly capture the rugged, wide expanses of mid-western America; and, of course, a calibre of acting that simply draws us indelibly into the characters whose story we are following.

There are no weak acting links in this film - just as there aren't in the other two mentioned - but Jeff Bridges makes the role of Marshal Rooster Cogburn (played by an Oscar-winning John Wayne in the original) a wholly sympathetic one that simply shouldn't be the case with such a rollicking, wise-cracking, callous, disreputable drunkard. He grates out his dead-pan one-liners with gruesome effectiveness, provoking several laugh out loud moments in the cinema. Meanwhile newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, playing the 14 year old heroine, so grips the screen and draws us on side that you are reminded that there can be really good child actors. She was 13 when she played the part, and I don't know which acting school she went to but I only wish the child leads of Harry Potter had managed to go there, even for only a week. Steinfeld was superb in the difficult role - she acted (Daniel Radcliffe please note) and showed an emotional range that didn't just about struggle to get to B from A. She had to hold the film together and in that she triumphantly succeeded. There are many great lines in the film, and she utters one of them when she observes the forthcoming punishment of her father's murderer - You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.

And the ending for this fantastic western revival tugs with such empathy at our emotional weak points that it nearly had me descending once again into the persona of a lachrymose imbecile. I've never seen the original version (neither, apparently, has Matt Damon, playing the second bounty-hunter in this film); having seen the Coen Brothers' version, I've don't think I've got any desire to go and watch what could only surely be an inferior film, even if it did provide Wayne with his Oscar.

For a great review of the film by the way, read David Sexton's in the Evening Standard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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