Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quick Takes: Tron: Legacy, True Grit

Jeff Bridges is certainly enjoying an impressive run these days, isn't he? As a longtime fan of his work, I'm happy he's finally getting due recognition (hello Oscar!) and more solid work. Bridges is no longer a resilient, persistent underdog, but now a force to be reckoned with. Last year alone, he had a dual role in the much anticipated sequel to his underground 80's hit, Tron, and a showy, spectacular performance in the latest venture from the brothers Coen. I had the pleasure of viewing both films this week, and Bridges continues to knock me out. The man is unstoppable.

I know I saw Tron sometime in the 80s (I was 5 when it came out), but I can't remember a lick of it. I went into Tron: Legacy (2010) with trepidation. Would I "get" it? Would it be another sci-fi effects-driven opus that would give me a headache if I tried to figure it out? A half hour into the movie, my fears were gone. Tron: Legacy is surprisingly accessible to newcomers, an easy-going, nimbly-paced adventure about a teenager (Garrett Hedlund, a fantastic presence and a star in the making) in search for his father (Bridges), who has gone missing inside of a super-computer. Sam comes across a digital, younger version of his father (Bridges again, in a technologically groundbreaking performance), who is at war with his real self. No doubt about it, the plot is silly and not without its share of corny sentiment, but it works. Newcomer director Joseph Kosinki has a strong grasp on this material and carried me through the film with ease and skill. Writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (best known from me for penning some classic Lost episodes) have a penchant for witty, fun dialogue and not taking the film too seriously.

I had a good time with Tron: Legacy. It looks great, Hedlund has a starry quality about him, and Bridges looks like he's having a ball. It is far from perfect, but what's not to like here? 3.5/5

Bridges again disappears into a showy role as Rooster Cogburn, a character originated on screen by John Wayne back in 1969, in True Grit (2010), the latest effort by movie gods Joel and Ethan Coen. Bridges is barely recognizable under that heavy beard, eye patch and punchy dialogue ("The jakes is occupied!"), but it's an indelible, layered performance, as good as anything he has ever done. Hailee Steinfeld is a remarkable newcomer; like Hedlund in Tron: Legacy, you just know she will be going places. Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper are as reliably good as you'd expect them to be.

The real star of this vengeance drama, though, is the script. The dialogue is like butter; listening to the exchanges between these characters is the main source of pleasure I got from True Grit. A sample:

Lawyer: So, you say that when Amos Wharton raised his axe, you backed away from him.
Cogburn: That's right.
Lawyer: In what direction were you going?
Cogburn: Backwards. I always go backwards when I back up.

Unsurprisingly, the Coens have a magical way with words. Like Hemingway or Dickens, you just know their voices. True Grit is a remake and an adaptation of a novel, but make no mistake: this is strictly a Coen film. I'm not a fan of westerns, but these guys entertained the hell out of me with this one. 4/5

5 comments:

Paul S said...

I'm an old school Jeff Bridges fan like you Dave and films like The Last Picture Show and Thunderbolt And Lightfoot rank among my favourites.
I'm interested to hear that you enjoyed Tron 2, a guy I work with has given me his Blu-ray and I'm intending to watch it this weekend.I'll have to get around to watching True Grit in the near future as well, when I do I'll let you know what I think.

Dave said...

I have yet to see Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. I smell a Virgin Vintage Viewings post in the near future! Seriously, I cannot get enough of this guy.

I hope you enjoy the latest work of this pretty awesome dude as much as I did. :-)

Castor said...

True Grit didn't feel as much like a Cohen movie but I highly enjoyed it. I thought Jeff Bridges was excellent but maybe not worthy of an Oscar nomination. Hailee Steinfeld really carried the movie.

Wendi said...

When the first Tron movie came out, I had just graduated HS and moved out to live in Kentucky with ny boyfriend. He worked the concession stand at a theater so I was able to go and watch as many movies as I wanted. I watched Tron SO. MANY. TIMES. I loved it. It was just so exciting visually, even though I missed a lot of the plot due to my hearing loss.

We saw Tron: Legacy in the theater (I feel like those movies are best experienced on a big screen)and it was such a blast -- we didn't even wait for the open captioned viewing, and I was able to follow it pretty well. I loved it!

We loved True Grit -- the dialogue was fantastic. I saw the original one but never really followed much of it -- I was very young at the time. I just remember John Wayne scared me. ;-) It was very nice to see it with captioning and understand what was going on! :)

Dave said...

@Castor - Agreed re: Hailee Steinfeld. I understand her Supporting Actress nomination was a strategic move (she had a much better chance of winning there, than in Best Actress), although her role of Mattie is a truly a leading actress part. That's a big weight on her shoulders, and she carried it very well.

@Wendi -- Funny about Tron! Even when we watch things over and over again, we STILL miss things because of our loss. Thank goodness for captions, right? But good for you for catching most of Tron: Legacy without missing a beat. Not sure if I would have been able to pull that off!

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