In the late 90′s, I used to watch Pedro Martinez pitch for the Boston Red Sox. While he’d always been a decent pitcher, starting in ’97, he was in the zone, striking out batters with such ease that everyone knew they were watching something special. It got to be that his dates on the mound were circled on calendars and people cleared their schedules to make sure they could watch.
Which brings me to the latest Coen Brothers movie, True Grit.
For the past few years, moviegoers have been witness to an incredible streak of brilliant movies from the Coens, starting with No Country For Old Men in 2007, and continuing with Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, and now their latest work of genius, True Grit. Like Pedro Martinez in the 90′s, the brothers are throwing fastball after fastball and they’re making it look far too easy. And they’re doing it every year. If you’re a movie nerd, you know how difficult it is to make one great movie, let alone four in four years. Much more after the jump:
Before going any further, if you’re not familiar with True Grit, it’s a western that stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and Hailee Steinfeld. Here’s the trailer:
Here’s the thing: Since True Grit doesn’t get released until the end of December, I’m unwilling to go into too many specifics about the plot. I walked into the theater knowing very little as I hadn’t read Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, and I’d never seen the original John Wayne movie from 1969. And even though some of you might have either read the book or seen the original film, I’d imagine the large majority of moviegoers are going to walk in like I did. If you do, you can look forward to the same reaction I had while watching: loving every second of it. On top of that, if you’re a fan of westerns, get ready for a cup of fried gold, as the Coens have again proven they can work in any genre and tell any story.
And this is the problem with writing about the Coen brothers–you’re stuck with the same superlatives that you use all the time: genius, brilliant, awesome, amazing, dazzling…you get where this is going. They’ve once again made one of the best films of the year and it’s something you should be excited to see. It’s definitely on my top ten.
Anyhow, since Peter from Slashfilm was at the same advance screening as me, we recorded a video blog the other night. The only thing to know is I was in Boston and had to use my laptop video camera. Meaning the quality is pretty bad. But you can hear us, which is all that really counts:
Hailee Steinfeld. The entire movie is about her character trying to get revenge on the man who killed her father. She plays a 14 year old girl in the late 1800′s and she delivers one of the best “kid” performances I’ve seen in a long time. There are scenes where she’s acting against Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon and she easily holds her own.
Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Both are brilliant for different reasons. I don’t want to spoil how Damon plays his character, but his choices are perfect and he again demonstrates why he’s one of the best actors working today. Bridges, on the other hand, is in the majority of the film and he’s phenomenal as Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn – the person Hailee Steinfeld hires to kill the man who murdered her father. If he hadn’t won an Oscar last year for Crazy Heart, this role might have done it. Either way, I can see both actors getting Oscar nominations.
Roger Deakins. If you’re a film nerd, you knew this was coming. As the director of photography for a lot of the Coen Brothers films, most have seen his work behind the camera. He’s helped make some of their films so memorable. Look at his resume. He’s one of the best in the world. Anyway, in True Grit, he makes a long gone era feel new and real.
Production Design/Costumes/Etc. – Every aspect impressed me. There are some scenes towards the beginning of the film that you’ll think you’ve been transported back in time as Steinfeld walks around. So impressed.
The script. I don’t know how the Coen Brothers continue to churn out phenomenal script and script, but I’m so thankful they do. As you would imagine with this being a Coen film, you’re going to have plenty of great moments that you didn’t see coming. I really want to talk about some specific things…but I’m holding back as I don’t want to ruin any aspect of the film.
If you’re a fan of westerns, the Coen brothers, any of the actors in the film, or just great movies, True Grit should be on your list to see this holiday season. It’s one of my favorites of the year and brilliant on so many levels. I wish I could talk about a few of the specific things that I loved, but I don’t want to ruin any of the twists and turns. My advice is to see True Grit as soon as possible. You’ll be happy you did.
True Grit opens December 22 at theaters everywhere.