True Grit fits well into 2010’s slate of films because it is about a reluctant hero, a guy who is faltering at life, even failing. Right up front you know that the Coens are not going to give you what you expect, which is a starker version of the John Wayne film. This, because there are long pieces of talking scenes in the beginning. The Coens are part director, part editor and very much writers. The writing here is pronounced, as it in The Social Network and Winter’s Bone: it stands out on its own both in terms of its dialogue and the rhythm of the thing. When you watch David Fincher’s The Social Network you can hear a drumbeat behind every sentence. Fincher times his film to Sorkin’s speed, and Eisenberg matches it. In True Grit, the language is equally important; maybe one of the most prominent things about it. Some will find it, as they do with The Social Network, intrusive because it bobs so mightily on the surface. But others will admire their attention to detail. Like The Social Network, True Grit’s actors are up to the task at hand, and they adeptly handle the awkward text as if they were born into it.
True Grit is really a film that lives up to its title; it is about having the grit to do what it takes. It turns out, though, that it doesn’t really mean what it’s supposed to mean. It wouldn’t be one of the 2010’s best films if it were that literal. It is, of course, about that tiny piece of heroism that rises in Rooster Cogburn by the end of the movie. He does what’s necessary. He’s not afraid to follow his own morality. It is his vulnerability that may surprise him after all of his big talk about being so tough. In the end, he must come to terms with his own paternal impulses. It’s a beautiful thing.