True Grit (PG-13)
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This 2010 film is based on a 1968 novel, which I haven't read. There was a previous film adaptation in 1969, starring John Wayne, which I haven't seen. I'd definitely like to see it, but it's hard for me to imagine I'd like it as much as this one. Speaking of liking... it was kind of hard for me to decide whether to give this movie three smileys or four; I definitely think it's better than a lot of things I'd rate at three, though a lot of the things I do rate three, I like better, or at least find more memorable, than I expect this to be for me. Maybe that'll change on repeated viewings, but there aren't a lot of movies I feel the need to see more than once, so we'll see. This definitely seems like something I might watch again at some point, but probably not for some years. But yeah... it was definitely good. I should also mention that while it's fundamentally a serious movie, and there's a fair amount of violence, I thought it was about as funny as a movie can possibly be without technically being a comedy (and a lot funnier than some movies that are purely comedies).
It's framed by the reminiscences of a woman named Mattie Ross, who tells the story of an adventure she had when she was 14 (Hailee Steinfeld). Her father had been killed by a man named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who fled to Indian Territory, and apparently took up with a gang led by a man called Lucky Ned Pepper. The law wasn't going to do anything about it, as there was already a long list of fugitives, and too few lawmen to follow up on all of them. So Mattie decided to hire a U.S. Marshal to find Chaney and bring him to justice. The man she chose was one of the best in the business, or at least one of the nastiest, Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). He apparently is overly fond of shooting his victims, rather than bringing them in for trial, and also drinks too much. Plus he's getting older, and isn't as good as he used to be (but he's still pretty damn good). Also he seems to have a checkered past... he wasn't always on the right side of the law. Meanwhile, there's a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf (Matt Damon), who's been pursuing Chaney for some time now (though he went by a different name in Texas, and has apparently used a few other aliases; I'm not sure what Chaney's real name was, though I feel like it was probably Chaney). Anyway, Cogburn and LaBoeuf don't get along very well. And Mattie isn't particularly keen on LaBoeuf, partly because he wants to take Chaney back to Texas for the crime he committed there, rather than Arkansas, where Mattie wants him to be tried for her father's murder. Neither of them are particularly happy to have a young girl insisting on coming along on the hunt for Chaney.
Anyway... Mattie's a pretty great character. Smart as a whip, snarky, with a fierce and focused determination, and an air of superiority, but who also has moments of just being a sweet kid. Rooster and LaBoeuf also made for an amusing odd couple, and the whole trio really worked quite well together. And I must say I enjoyed the way everyone talked, with an old-fashioned sort of rough elegance, and particularly the fact that they very rarely used contractions. As for the underlying premise of the film... it seems like the kind of story where one might expect the journey to be more fun or satisfying than the destination... and maybe it is, but the destination is pretty damn satisfying, too. I don't really want to say anything about what happens in the course of the hunt, or what happens after they eventually find Chaney and Pepper's gang. But the whole movie is kind of awesome, and everyone in it does an amazing job.