Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Grit of True Grit

There are some thing you do not try to change in the cinematic world. Certain actors are born for their roles such as Charleston Heston as Moses in the epic The Ten Commandments and these cannot be changed. Another is John Wayne as overweight, hard drinking, foul mouthed U.S.Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn in True Grit (1969). It will be a sacrilege to have another actor play that role. This was my opinion when I watched True Grit (2010) staring Jeff Bridges as Cogburn.

from Wiki

True Grit is a 2010 American Western film written and directed by the Coen brothers. It is the second adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name, which was previously adapted for film in 1969 starring John Wayne. The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, and Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper

It was startling when the movie started with a verse from the Bible (Proverbs 28:1a)
"The wicked flee when none pursueth"

The second part of the verse is not mentioned "but the righteous are as bold as a lion"(KJV).

Then softly the strains of an old hymn is heard, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." The melodious music of the hymns are heard throughout the movie, each repeat with more instruments until the climax when the whole orchestra is heard. Throughout the movie other hymns are also heard including "What a friend we have in Jesus." Christian symbolism abound in the movie. The train that carried Mattie Ross, a fourteen year old girl whose father was murdered carry the number 316  (likeness to John 3:16). The trinity of Mattie, Rooster and a Texas ranger chasing and killing the evil men.

Is this a "Christian" movie? If it is, then it is unlike any Christian movie I have every seen. Yet it should be what every Christian movie should be like. This movie carries a message about justice but is not preachy and shoddy filmed as most Christian movies are.

That the movie is about vengeance is no doubt as the voiceover of the adult Matties (25 years after the incident) tells of the man who murdered her father.

“No doubt Chaney fancied himself scot-free, but he was wrong. You must pay for everything in this life, one way and another. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.“
The movie is about character or grit. What is the true character of a person beyond the outside appearance?It is also about vengeance and its consequences. Vengeance may appear under the thin guise of justice. A young innocent fourteen year old Mattie seek the help of the U.S.Marshall Rooster to hunt down and capture the man who killed her father. In fact, she employed the Marshall to track her father's killer. Beneath the youth and innocence is a character much older than her fourteen years. Her quest for vengeance will cause her an arm as another quote, this time from Confucius "those who seek vengeance must first dig two graves" reminds us. Vengeance belongs solely to God.

U.S.Marshall Rooster Cogburn appeared a loser in both appearance and attitude. A killer, overweight drunkard and braggart, he is the antihero. Yet somehow he had the strength of character to face down four horsemen in the famous scene as he charged with his reins in his mouth with both guns blazing. When Mattie was bitten by a rattler snake, he rushed her to the nearest doctor for help. He rode Mattie's horse until the horse died of exhaustion and then he carried her on the run until his legs too gave out.

Texas Ranger La Boeuf is portrayed by Matt Damon who looked so different from Jason Bourne that I hardly recognise him. La Boeuf too has been tracking Chaney, Mattie's father killer. Chaney had killed a U.S.senator in Texas. However La Boeuf is a mercenary, tracking Chaney more for the bounty money than doing his duty as a Ranger. Appearance-wise, he was in contrast to Rooster. La Boeuf was slim, well dressed, proud of being a Texas Ranger and appear a bit self-righteous.

Appearance may be deceiving as is masterfully portrayed by Mattie, Rooster and La Boeuf in this Western which is based on a book by Charles Portis. Our true character or grit often shows through in our actions. A great movie to watch. However, I still prefer John Wayne....



Blogger Squeezebox Sam said...

I like your musings about this film very much, particularly your analysis of it from a Christian symbology point of view. I missed the "316" and the thought of Ross, Cogburn, and LeBoef as a holy trinity never occurred to me. I grew up with John Wayne as Cogburn and had my apprehensions as well, but was very pleased with the film. I wrote an analysis of it a few weeks back in my own blogspot blog ( Thanks for sharing!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Squeezebox Sam,

I have enjoyed your review on the movie on your blog. Good stuff.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Squeezebox Sam said...

Thanks for the positive feedback. Always nice to meet another person interested in digging under the surface.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Sam,

Yet it is good to know you and read some of your movie reviews. I look forward to reading more.

Here are my other movie reviews

6:38 PM  

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