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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

True Grit

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Oscar-winners Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon star in "True Grit."
With "True Grit" (Paramount)—the second screen version of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same title, first adapted in a 1969 production helmed by Henry Hathaway and memorably starring John Wayne—writer-directors (and brothers) Joel and Ethan Coen combine dramatic excellence and moral heft to create an exceptionally fine reimagining of the traditional Western.

Though scenes of gunplay and other strife—together with some mildly salty language—preclude endorsement for youngsters, adult viewers will likely find this slyly witty frontier foray a captivating treat.

Tasked with organizing her father's funeral in the wake of his murder, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (impressive newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) travels alone to the scene of the crime -- the small, freewheeling town of Fort Smith, Ark. Preternaturally poised and remarkably determined, however, Mattie is intent on doing more than merely wrapping up her father's affairs. She means to bring the sole suspect in his killing—cowardly outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin)—to account.

But Chaney has escaped into Indian Territory, and Mattie quickly discovers that the local forces of the law have no interest in pursuing him. So, based on his reputation as a dogged tracker of fugitives, she enlists the aid of broken-down but resourceful U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges).

Also hunting Chaney—for a much older murder committed in the Lone Star State—is cocksure Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon). He eventually joins forces with Cogburn and Mattie. But the resulting alliance is an unsettled, on-again-off-again affair, strained by conflicting goals and by the comic, boastful rivalry between the lawmen.

What follows is a richly enjoyable tale enlivened by archetypical characters, a mythic atmosphere and amusingly idiosyncratic dialogue. Typical of this last element is Mattie's characterization of the marauding gang Chaney has joined while on the run; "a congress of louts," she calls them.

While thoroughly entertaining, "True Grit" also plumbs deeper. It opens with a quotation from the King James translation of the Book of Proverbs: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth," the first of several biblical and religious references scattered through the script.

These allusions draw attention to the film's serious reflections on the violent undertow of frontier life. Witnessed from Mattie's sensitive perspective, the shootouts and other death-dealing confrontations that take place here are never glossed over, but are shown instead to be unnatural and difficult to absorb.

In something of a conversion story, meanwhile, Cogburn and LaBoeuf struggle to overcome their personal shortcomings and petty mutual antipathy in the service of a larger cause.

The film contains considerable, occasionally bloody violence, brief gruesome imagery, a half-dozen uses of profanity and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.




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Louis of France: At his coronation as king of France, Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice. 
<p>He was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though not without challenge. They had 11 children. </p><p>Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta ini Egypt but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years. </p><p>He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. His regulations for royal officials became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the use of written records in court. </p><p>Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV’s sentence against Emperor Frederick II. </p><p>Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis (October 4), caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace. </p><p>Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion. </p><p>Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.</p> American Catholic Blog God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty. <br />–St. John of the Cross

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