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September 24, 2017

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True Grit (真實的勇氣)

"True Grit" is one of the most mainstream, crowd-pleasing films Joel and Ethan Coen have ever made.

It's sort of a screwball Western, if you will, with vivid performances and strikingly vast, picturesque vistas, the always-gorgeous work of the always-great Roger Deakins, the Coens' frequent cinematographer.

But it's a minor entry from the writing and directing brothers, especially when you consider the inventiveness and strength of their canon and the close aesthetic resemblance to "No Country for Old Men" (險路勿近), their masterpiece. While "True Grit" is entertaining, it's also surprisingly lacking in emotional resonance, as well as the intriguing sense of ambiguity that so often permeates Coen pictures. Only toward the end does it feel like anything is at stake, but at least it's enjoyable while you're waiting.

Based on the title, this would seem like a remake of the 1969 Western that earned John Wayne his only Academy Award, for best actor. But the Coens were actually more interested in creating a truer version of the original source material, Charles Portis' novel of the same name.

The absurd humor that is one of the Coens' trademarks exists here alongside the kind of quick bursts of violence that often erupt in their films. And the dialogue is so Coens-y: the specificity of the word choices; the cadence of the exchanges; the repetition of certain phrases.

And while Jeff Bridges is stepping into a role so closely associated with The Duke, he infuses it with unmistakable shadings of The Dude. By now we're probably all looking for traces of Bridges' character from "The Big Lebowski" (謀殺綠腳趾) the last film he made with the Coens, in everything he does. It's become such an indelible part of his persona. But The Dude is really here this time. Bridges plays U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn as a guy who is gruff and grizzled, lived a long and well-lubricated life, but who has also attained a certain Zen-like self-possession about it. There's a pleasingly shambling way about him, an easygoing ramble to his storytelling. He even says the word "abide" at one point. If you're a fan — or even an "achiever" — it will make you smile.

That's just part of what makes this version of "True Grit" so amusing, though. There's also Bridges' competitive interplay with Matt Damon, a bit of a buffoon as a preening Texas Ranger, which Damon plays with some of the same goofy humor he showed last year in "The Informant!" (爆料大師) It is yet another reminder that he can do anything.

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