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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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Philip and James: 
		<b>James, Son of Alphaeus:</b> We know nothing of this man except his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater. 
<p><b>Philip:</b> Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:45). </p><p>Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. St. John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (John 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (John 6:7). </p><p>John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift. </p><p>On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way...If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9a). </p><p>Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some Gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’ reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.</p> American Catholic Blog Only in human weakness do many of us begin to rely on God and explicitly repudiate our own divine ambitions. Every pain alerts us to the fact that we are not the Almighty.

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