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True Grit (2010 film)

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True Grit
Text poster in the style of a Wanted notice
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoel Coen
Ethan Coen
Screenplay by
  • Joel Coen
  • Ethan Coen
Based onTrue Grit
by Charles Portis
Produced by
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byRoderick Jaynes[a]
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 22, 2010 (2010-12-22)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35–38 million[1][3][4]
Box office$252.3 million[4]

True Grit is a 2010 American Western film directed, written, produced, and edited by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. It is an adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name, starring Jeff Bridges as Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. The film also stars Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. A previous film adaptation in 1969 starred John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell.

Fourteen-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross hires Cogburn, a boozy, trigger-happy lawman, to go after outlaw Tom Chaney who has murdered her father. The bickering duo are accompanied on their quest by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf who has been tracking Chaney for killing a Texas state senator. As the three embark on a dangerous adventure, they each have their "grit" tested in various ways.

Filming began in March 2010, and the film was officially released in the United States on December 22, 2010, after advance screenings earlier that month.[5] The film opened the 61st Berlin International Film Festival on February 10, 2011.[6] It was well received by critics with particular praise for its acting, directing, story, score, and production values, with some deeming it superior to the earlier adaptation. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, but won none: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bridges), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 7, 2011.


While on a trip to Fort Smith, Arkansas, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross's father is murdered by hired hand Tom Chaney. Sent to collect her father's body, Mattie finds out that Chaney has likely fled with "Lucky" Ned Pepper and his gang into Indian Territory, where the local sheriff has no authority. She then inquires about hiring a Deputy U.S. Marshal. The sheriff gives three recommendations and Mattie chooses the "meanest" one, Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn initially rebuffs her offer, doubting both her grit and her wealth, but she raises the money by aggressive horse trading.

Texas Ranger LaBoeuf arrives in town, pursuing Chaney for the murder of a state senator. LaBoeuf proposes joining Cogburn but Mattie refuses his offer. She wishes Chaney to be hanged in Arkansas for her father's murder, not Texas. Mattie insists on traveling with Cogburn, but after he departs without her, she accompanies LaBoeuf to apprehend Chaney and split the reward.

After catching up with the lawmen, Mattie is spanked for her "insolence" by LaBoeuf until Cogburn draws his weapon on him. This, combined with their differing opinions of William Quantrill, prompts Cogburn to end his arrangement with LaBoeuf, who leaves to pursue Chaney on his own. At a rural dugout, Cogburn and Mattie find outlaws Quincy and Moon, who surrender after Cogburn shoots and injures Moon. Initially, the outlaws deny any knowledge of Ned Pepper or Chaney, but Cogburn, using Moon's worsening injury as leverage, convinces him to cooperate. Quincy, enraged, stabs Moon and is killed by Cogburn. A dying Moon reveals that Pepper's gang will arrive at the dugout later that night for supplies.

Cogburn and Mattie plan an ambush, but LaBoeuf arrives first and is confronted by the gang. Cogburn shoots two gang members and accidentally hits LaBoeuf, but Pepper escapes. Due to his substantial injuries, LaBoeuf rejoins Cogburn and Mattie. The next morning, the three set off again in pursuit of Chaney and the gang, who Cogburn believes may be hiding out in the Winding Stair Mountains. Cogburn begins to drink heavily and the animosity between him and LaBoeuf resumes. After days of searching, the three find no trace of Chaney or the Pepper gang. Drunk, Cogburn declares that the trail has gone cold and quits the pursuit. LaBoeuf leaves the posse, declaring he will return to Texas. Mattie expresses regret to LaBoeuf that she had hired the wrong man and they reconcile with both admitting they misjudged each other.

While retrieving water from a stream, Mattie happens upon Chaney. She shoots and wounds him but her revolver misfires, allowing Chaney to take her hostage. Ned Pepper convinces Cogburn to leave the area by threatening to kill Mattie. Pepper then departs with his gang, stating someone will return with a fresh horse for Chaney and instructing him to not harm her while they wait. Chaney, musing that Pepper has abandoned him to be captured by the law, attempts to kill Mattie. LaBoeuf arrives and knocks Chaney unconscious, revealing that he and Cogburn had reunited shortly after the initial gunfight. He was to rescue Mattie while Cogburn intercepts the gang in a four-to-one standoff.

Cogburn and the outlaws charge at each other headlong, with Cogburn killing two gang members and forcing a third to flee before his own horse is shot and falls, trapping him. Alone and mortally wounded, Pepper prepares to execute Cogburn. However, LaBoeuf shoots Pepper from 400 yards with his rifle. Chaney regains consciousness and knocks out LaBoeuf, but Mattie seizes the rifle and shoots Chaney dead. The recoil knocks her into a pit, where she is bitten by a rattlesnake. Cogburn arrives and rescues Mattie, thanking LaBoeuf and promising to send help for him before departing with Mattie to reach a doctor. After their horse collapses from exhaustion, Cogburn carries a delirious Mattie on foot to reach help. Despite staying with Mattie until she is out of danger, Cogburn is gone by the time she regains consciousness, and her arm is ultimately amputated.

Twenty-five years later, Mattie receives a letter from Cogburn inviting her to attend a traveling Wild West show in which he is performing. Three days before Mattie arrives at the show site, Cogburn dies. She has his body moved to her family cemetery and reflects on this decision, her choice not to marry, and her hope of hearing from LaBoeuf again if he is still alive.


Hailee Steinfeld was cast as Mattie Ross from among 15,000 applicants.

Adaptation and production[edit]


The project was confirmed in March 2009.[7] Ahead of shooting, Ethan Coen said that the film would be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the 1969 version.

It's partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humor in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character – the little girl – 25 years later when she's an adult. Another way in which it's a little bit different from the movie – and maybe this is just because of the time the movie was made – is that it's a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects. Which is part of what's interesting about it.[8]

Mattie Ross "is a pill," said Ethan Coen in a December 2010 interview, "but there is something deeply admirable about her in the book that we were drawn to," including the Presbyterian-Protestant ethic so strongly imbued in a 14-year-old girl. Joel Coen said that the brothers did not want to "mess around with what we thought was a very compelling story and character." The film's producer, Scott Rudin, said that the Coens had taken a "formal, reverent approach" to the Western genre, with its emphasis on adventure and quest. "The patois of the characters, the love of language that permeates the whole film, makes it very much of a piece with their other films, but it is the least ironic in many regards."[9]

Nevertheless, there are subtle ways in which the film adaptation differs from the original novel. This is particularly evident in the negotiation scene between Mattie and her father's undertaker. In the film, Mattie bargains over her father's casket and proceeds to spend the night among the corpses to avoid paying for the boardinghouse. This scene is, in fact, nonexistent in the novel, where Mattie is depicted as refusing to bargain over her father's body and never entertaining the thought of sleeping among the corpses.[10]

Open casting sessions were held in Texas in November 2009 for the role of Mattie Ross. The following month, Paramount Pictures announced a casting search for a 12- to 16-year-old girl, describing the character as a "simple, tough as nails young woman" whose "unusually steely nerves and straightforward manner are often surprising."[11] Steinfeld, then age 13, was selected for the role from a pool of 15,000 applicants. "It was, as you can probably imagine, the source of a lot of anxiety", Ethan Coen told The New York Times. "We were aware if the kid doesn't work, there's no movie."[9] Natalia Dyer auditioned for Mattie and was reportedly “one of the top candidates for the role.”[12]


The film was shot in the Santa Fe area from March 22 to April 27, 2010, as well as in Texas (Bartlett, Granger, and Austin).[13][14] The first trailer was released in September; a second one premiered with The Social Network.

For the final segment of the film, a one-armed body double was needed for Elizabeth Marvel (who played the adult Mattie). After a nationwide call, the Coen brothers cast Ruth Morris – a 29-year-old social worker and student who was born without a left forearm.[15][16]


Johnny Cash's rendition of "God's Gonna Cut You Down" was used in the theatrical trailer. The 1887 hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" is used as Mattie Ross's theme, and about a quarter of the score is based on it. Iris DeMent's version, from her 2004 album Lifeline, is used during the end credits. Other hymns are also referenced in the score, including "What a Friend We Have in Jesus,"[17] "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand,"[18][19] and "The Glory-Land Way."[20] Because the hymns are considered pre-composed music, the score was deemed ineligible to be nominated for Best Original Score in the 2010 Academy Awards.[21]


Box office[edit]

The film True Grit was released, in North America, on December 22, 2010. It was a commercial success, grossing $171,243,005 in North America alone, $81,033,922 in other territories and $252,276,927 worldwide, with a budget of 35–38 million. Its box office ranking for all-time United States was No. 296; worldwide it was No. 611.[1][4]

In the holiday weekend following its December 22 North American debut, True Grit took in $25.6 million at the box office, twice its pre-release projections.[3] By its second weekend ending January 2, the film had earned $87.1 million domestically, becoming the Coen brothers' highest-grossing film, surpassing No Country for Old Men, which earned $74.3 million. True Grit was the only mainstream movie of the 2010 holiday season to exceed the revenue expectations of its producers. Based on that performance, The Los Angeles Times predicted that the film would likely become the second-highest grossing western of all time when inflation is discounted, exceeded only by Dances with Wolves.[22]

On Thursday, December 23, 2010, it opened to No. 3 behind Little Fockers and Tron: Legacy. On Friday, December 24, 2010, it went up to No. 2 behind Little Fockers. On Friday, December 31, 2010, it went up to No. 1 and then on January 1, 2011, it went back to No. 2 until January 3, 2011. It stayed No. 1 until January 14 and then went down to No. 3 behind The Green Hornet and The Dilemma. On February 11, 2011, it went down to No. 9 behind Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Just Go With It, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Eagle, The Roommate, The King's Speech, No Strings Attached, and Sanctum. It closed in theaters on April 28, 2011. True Grit took in an additional $15 million in what is usually a slow month for movie attendance, reaching $110 million.[23] According to Box Office Mojo, True Grit has grossed over $170 million domestically and $250 million worldwide as of July 2011.[4]

Both the brothers and Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore attributed the film's success partly to its "soft" PG-13 rating, atypical for a Coen brothers film, which helped broaden audience appeal. Paramount anticipated that the film would be popular with the adults who often constitute the Coen brothers' core audience, as well as fans of the Western genre. But True Grit also drew extended families: parents, grandparents, and teenagers. Geographically, the film played strongest in Los Angeles and New York, but its top 20 markets also included Oklahoma City; Plano, Texas; and Olathe, Kansas.[22][24]

Critical reception[edit]

True Grit received critical acclaim. Roger Ebert awarded 3.5 stars out of 4, writing, "What strikes me is that I'm describing the story and the film as if it were simply, if admirably, a good Western. That's a surprise to me, because this is a film by the Coen Brothers, and this is the first straight genre exercise in their career. It's a loving one. Their craftsmanship is a wonder," and also remarking, "(t)he cinematography by Roger Deakins reminds us of the glory that was, and can still be, the Western."[25] Total Film gave the film a five-star review: "This isn't so much a remake as a masterly re-creation. Not only does it have the drop on the 1969 version, it's the first great movie of 2011."[26]

The performances of Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld garnered critical acclaim, earning them Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

The Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, writing, "The Coens, not known for softening anything, have restored the original's bleak, elegiac conclusion and as writer-directors have come up with a version that shares events with the first film but is much closer in tone to the book ... Clearly recognizing a kindred spirit in Portis, sharing his love for eccentric characters and odd language, they worked hard, and successfully, at serving the buoyant novel as well as being true to their own black comic brio."[27]

In his review for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Colin Covert wrote: "the Coens dial down the eccentricity and deliver their first classically made, audience-pleasing genre picture. The results are masterful."[28] Richard Corliss of Time named Hailee Steinfeld's performance one of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2010, saying "She delivers the orotund dialogue as if it were the easiest vernacular, stares down bad guys, wins hearts. That's a true gift."[29]

Rex Reed of the New York Observer criticized the film's pacing, referring to plot points as "mere distractions ... to divert attention from the fact that nothing is going on elsewhere." Reed considers Damon "hopelessly miscast" and finds Bridges' performance mumbly, lumbering, and self-indulgent.[30] Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B+: "Truer than the John Wayne showpiece and less gritty than the book, this True Grit is just tasty enough to leave movie lovers hungry for a missing spice."[31]

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops review called the film "exceptionally fine" and said "[a]mid its archetypical characters, mythic atmosphere and amusingly idiosyncratic dialogue, writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen's captivating drama uses its heroine's sensitive perspective – as well as a fair number of biblical and religious references – to reflect seriously on the violent undertow of frontier life."[32]

On Rotten Tomatoes 95% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 280 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10 and with its consensus stating: "Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens' most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book."[33] Metacritic gave the film an average score of 80 out of 100 based on 41 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[34] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[35]


The film won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer (Hailee Steinfeld) and received ten additional nominations in the following categories: Best Film, Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Score. The ceremony took place on January 14, 2011.[36]

It was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bridges) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Steinfeld). The ceremony took place on January 30, 2011.[37]

It was nominated for eight British Academy Film Awards: Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bridges), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Steinfeld), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design. Roger Deakins won the award for Best Cinematography.

It was nominated for ten Academy Awards,[38][39] but won none: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.[40] When told of all the nominations, the Coen brothers stated, "Ten seems like an awful lot. We don't want to take anyone else's."[41]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 7, 2011.[1][42]


  1. ^ Roderick Jaynes is the shared pseudonym used by the Coen brothers for their editing.


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External links[edit]