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Drunken, cantankerous, one-eyed US Marshall Rooster Cogburn is hired by a headstrong young girl to find the man who murdered her father and fled with the family savings. When Cogburn's employer insists on accompanying the old gunfighter, sparks fly. And the situation goes from troubled to disastrous when an inexperienced but enthusiastic Texas Ranger joins the party.
For more about True Grit and the True Grit Blu-ray release, see True Grit Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Henry Hathaway
Writer: Marguerite Roberts
Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Jeremy Slate, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper
» See full cast & crew
True Grit Blu-ray Review
John Wayne eats true grits for breakfast. And freshly-sliced bacon.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 16, 2010
I wont rest until Tom Chaney's barking in hell.
If the Western is the great American genre, and John Wayne is the great American actor, does that make True Grit the great American movie? Not quite, but it's still a fine picture of unlikely heroes and even more unlikely bonds of friendship forged in the face of tragedy, tragedy born behind the eyes of the gunpowder-covered mug of a despicable outlaw. True Grit is a larger-than-life Western with lots of heart and a steadily-growing tenderness that's born from the uneasy alliance between a bloodthirsty young girl and a grizzled lawman who seek justice for their own motives but who come to find in one another kindred spirits that just might be what keeps them alive on their dangerous quest. True Grit isn't the prototypical Western, at least not in those terms that seem to have come to define the genre; there are no dusty saloons, showdowns at sunset, or any of those types of Spaghetti Western sort of motifs. True Grit is more of a character Drama in a Western setting than anything else; the film takes its time developing relationships and motives, and while it doesn't have the fast pace of a movie that's all about quick draws and the incessant rapid-firing of a lever gun, it does hold its own as a structurally sound and emotionally satisfying period piece that allows in the action in when it's called for but is more content to play out as a grounded and intelligent picture that's built on story and characters ahead of action and cliché.
Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), a 14-year-old frontier girl, has just lost her father. He's been murdered in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Mattie knows the killer to be one Mr. Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), an unscrupulous troublemaker identifiable by a smudge of gunpowder forever affixed to his cheek. She travels to Fort Smith just in time to bear witness to a hanging, and she later tracks down the local law enforcement officials who claim Chaney has fled into Indian territory, out of their jurisdiction and absolving them from further pursuing the case. She's referred to a one-eyed U.S. Marshall named Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) from whom she solicits help primarily due to his reputation as a man of true grit. Cogburn, a drunkard unafraid of violent tangles and more than willing to use a gun, initially brushes her off but Mattie's persistence earns her an extended audience and, ultimately, and agreement to help, but for a price. Mattie manages to collect the money Cogburn demands, but she's disheartened when she learns that a Johnny-come-lately Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) has joined the party and wants to return Chaney to Texas where he'll be hanged for a crime committed against a sitting Senator. Mattie wants to see Chaney killed in Arkansas as retribution for her father's murder. The unsettled and uncertain band leaves Fort Smith in search of Chaney with Mattie forcing herself into the group against the better judgment of both Cogburn and La Boeuf, beginning a dangerous adventure into the American Frontier in search of honest and necessary justice.
True Grit offers a perfect example of John Wayne's versatility as an actor. For such a larger-than-life figure, and one associated with raw toughness and a no-nonsense attitude who's become the personification of the quintessential rough-and-tumble American frontiersman and lawman, Wayne has managed to balance his external strengths and mental toughness with an underlying tenderness that makes him a real hero and an icon of American cinema. True Grit sees Wayne at his most unapproachable, set-in-his-ways, and hardened self. It also sees him at his most vulnerable. The externally tough Rooster Cogburn -- with his eyepatch and unwavering confidence in who he is and what he demands of life and those around him -- is ultimately complimented by a warmheartedness that finally allows him to see Mattie as more than a payday and life as something greater than what pours from a bottle of whiskey. Wayne's Rooster Cogburn signifies one of the actor's most pivotal roles; not only is Rooster his most identifiable character, but the part earned the American Legend his only Oscar win for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Wayne is surrounded by a wonderful complimentary cast; Kim Darby tackles the part of Mattie as if she were Wayne. She plays the character tough, never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for who she is, insist on what she wants, and demand everything she needs. Ironically, it's her persistence but levelheadedness even in the face of her bloodlust that ultimately wins over Cogburn and allows him to come down from the tough guy exterior and find that balance that makes his character so great in the end.
True Grit is even bigger than its characters. While it might not exactly be the defining Western based solely on where the genre's been pigeonholed, it still manages to inspire awe in several places for not only its glorious cinematography but for the cohesion of the story and the way the characters fit into it. True Grit settles into the perfect pace; it's not going to satisfy pedal-to-the-metal 21st century expectations, but the relaxed filmmaking and steady cadence allows for fantastic character development as the plot slowly unravels over the first two acts and explodes into an intense and action-packed finale that's the perfect counterbalance to the slower but no less enjoyable segments. Stylistically, True Grit doesn't open up until partway through; there's little in the way of vast, wide open expanse shots in the early goings, which in a way reflects the uncertainty of the characters and their relationships. Once the characters commit to working together to track down Chaney, the film suddenly opens into a breathtaking array of those trademark Western vistas that are the visual equivalent of a big sigh of relief as it appears that Mattie may very well find her revenge after all rather than be shut out of justice. Ultimately, True Grit manages to take a simple formula -- the hero chasing the villain -- and personalize it to an extent that cinema rarely enjoys; the movie is incredibly rich and moving for not only its themes but its visuals and characters, all of which work in perfect harmony to make True Grit one of the great Westerns of all time.
True Grit Blu-ray, Video Quality
True Grit features a handsome 1080p, 1.78:1-framed high definition transfer. Colors dazzle throughout; the technicolor palette is steady and accurate, offering up sturdy whites and vibrant greens while handling the lesser earth tones -- shades of brown and gray -- with equal precision. Along those lines, black levels and flesh tones are never problematic. Detail is exquisite as well, the transfer revealing the intricate textures of clothing with ease while showing off plenty of facial details and capturing the nuanced elements in planks, wagons, and other wooden objects where every knot, sign of warping, wayward line, and chipped paint on applicable surfaces are all plainly visible. Film grain is retained throughout, spiking occasionally but adding to a fine film-like texture that accentuates the details and colors. There are a few trouble areas of note; the opening credits exhibit quite a bit of wobble, several shots go a hair soft, and random pops and scratches find their way into the transfer. Still, True Grit oftentimes looks breathtaking on Blu-ray; the image is sharp and incredibly handsome, making for another quality release from Paramount's classic library.
True Grit Blu-ray, Audio Quality
True Grit boasts a pair of English language audio options, an original Dolby Digital Mono presentation and a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Obviously, the 5.1 mix offers a fuller and richer listening experience over the mono soundtrack. The "5.1" monicker doesn't mean that True Grit's soundtrack has suddenly morphed into some Michael Bay-inspired extravaganza. Instead, it's a gentle but fuller and certainly faithful reproduction that allows for greater clarity while also extending the soundstage beyond the center speaker both off to the sides and, in rare instances, the surround channels that carry light and, generally, barely audible environmental ambience. Music enjoys good clarity across the front, whether as a crowd sings Amazing Grace at a hanging early in the movie or in Elmer Bernstein's score. Gunshots don't pack much of a punch, yielding only minimal power but effectively getting their points across, which is about all one could reasonably hope for given the source material. Dialogue is generally fine as it remains grounded in the center channel, though it occasionally finds itself slightly out of balance as words seem to alter pitch even within the same scene. Nevertheless, Paramount's audio presentations for True Grit do the film justice and represent something pretty close to best-case scenario.
True Grit Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
True Grit's supplemental package could stand to be a bit more comprehensive considering the film's status as a John Wayne and genre classic. The highlight is the A+ commentary track.
True Grit Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
True Grit is a special Western that's not quite as heartfelt as The Cowboys and as quite as exciting as The Searchers. It's not John Wayne's best film, but it's one that's very well done that's withstood the test of time and features The Duke at the top of his game and in, maybe, his most memorable and certainly most recognizable role. This classic star-studded epic's remake is about to be unleashed on theaters, but considering its superb cast and Director Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) working behind the camera, there's a chance it could be amongst the select few that actually manage to improve upon the original, a tall order to be sure but one the Coens are undoubtedly capable of achieving. John Wayne's True Grit is certainly no slouch; it's a deserved classic of its genre, and Paramount's Blu-ray release does it justice. Featuring a handsome 1080p transfer, a fine lossless soundtrack, and a good assortment of extras, fans of the film, genre aficionados, or Blu-ray collectors who appreciate classic movies lovingly restored in high definition will want to make this disc a permanent addition to the collection. Highly recommended.
True Grit: Other Editions
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True Grit Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Coens' True Grit Announced on Blu-ray - March 9, 2011
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced the western True Grit for Blu-ray release on June 7, in a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This new adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis (previously brought to the screen by Henry Hathaway in 1969), was nominated for ...
• Original True Grit Announced on Blu-ray - October 11, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that it will release the original 1969 version of True Grit on Blu-ray on December 14, tying in with the theatrical release of the remake directed by the Coen brothers. This western was directed by Henry Hathaway and starred ...
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