Screen Violence

film 5 of 5

True Grit (2010)

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

So close! So on the brink of being a classic! Everything is shot and decorated and enacted in a way that not only seems designed to inspire admiration, but actually deserves that admiration. There are no end of superb things here. Like this kid, and her super performance, and the way that everyone chews on those twenty-dollar words. Most of these superb things also come from Charles Portis’ (amazing, irreplaceable!) novel, which also touches on something very deep and profound.

You get a sense of these semi-savages somehow reaching for civilization. There’s a disjunction between their courtly speech and the brutalities that break out at the drop of a hat. But if we’re going to be optimistic, and consistent with the traditions of the Western, we would be justified in saying that the courtly speech corresponds with the place’s possibilities, with its founding documents by its founders way out east. Plus, à la Sophocles-according-to-Aristotle (cf. Poetics), the heightened speech is appropriate for the heightened, awesome setting.

Damon is good, Bridges is a hoot, the head villain is courtly too, and the murdering villain is dispatched with shocking effectiveness, or maybe effective shockingness. The snake pit part is worthy of my primordial memories of the original, and the part where Rooster kills his horse and nearly himself to save this contrary child is truly and honestly moving. That is some piquant epilogue too, inflecting the clarity that’s gone before without really altering it.

In the end, though, not quite. It’s those severed fingers! Yes, I know that the description is in the book. And that the Hathaway version chops ’em off too, if way more discreetly. (And that the victim was played by Dennis Hopper, in the same year that he directed Easy Rider!) I also know that a misstep does not a failure make, let alone a moral morass. But it’s the manner of the misstep, which we’ve seen a lot of from these two. Why, I ask myself, must they put such a Burn After Reading moment in what was on the brink of being like unto My Darling Clementine? I was sitting near some families, and some kids, and this assault affected them really adversely. That’s their problem? You make movies for yourselves? Okay, buddy, if you say so.