Cautions: violence, intensity, and some gore and morbidity, some ethical confusion, and language
True Grit is merely another name for what it takes to track down your father’s murderer across a treacherous, winter wilderness, in the company of a godless federal marshal and a Texas Ranger who is equally help and competition. What it takes to do it successfully, at fourteen years of age, is something beyond. True Grit is a masterful, intense western that is simultaneously art and action, humor of wit and character, and occasional scenes of death and dismemberment that not everyone’s going to exactly enjoy.
2010 | Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | 110 min Watch Trailer
Violence, Intensity, and Some Gore and Morbidity
A man gets his fingers chopped off and shrieks disturbingly until he is stabbed in the chest by his partner, who gets his brains blown out against the wall. Sensitive viewers are advised to avoid this scene.*
A man bites his own tongue during a fight, and another character (likely teasing) makes as if to pull the tip of the tongue off to help it heal, while the man chokes on the blood and tries to stop him. There is minimal actual gore, but the concept and sound of the struggle may disturb sensitive viewers.*
Morbidity includes a partly decayed corpse hanging and then falling from a tree. Dead men are left leaning against a wall outside a wilderness shack, in lieu of burial. A body is seen in a casket. A hanging is shown (both above and below the scaffold are visible during the drop).
A somewhat creepy scene involves rattlesnakes, and a rattlesnake bite. Another character scores the wound with a knife and sucks out the poison.
There are some fairly intense fighting, shooting and threatening scenes.
A pony is spurred with a knife in a life-or-death situation, and after it eventually collapses, is shot in the head.
Some Ethical Confusion
True Grit, like real life, contains good characters who do bad things, and bad characters who do good things. The overall distinction between righteous and unrighteous is, however, maintained.
A major character, U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, does many bad things and a few good things. He is presented as interesting, sometimes helpful, but severely lacking in virtue.
A man claims he saw Mattie’s mother, who says to come home immediately. Mattie appears to believe that he is lying, and takes no action.
Mattie is antagonistic toward the idea of letting a Texas Ranger capture the killer and take him back to Texas for a murder he committed there, saying she wants him punished for this murder, not that one.
A member of a criminal gang is referred to as a Methodist, and when he cooperates with the law and is killed by a fellow gang member, his dying words are that he will meet his circuit preacher brother in the streets of glory.
Strictly for pragmatic reasons1, Mattie wears trousers and her father’s coat and hat on the journey. She continues to behave femininely throughout the film.
A female character says she never married because she “didn’t have time to fool with that.” She is possibly referring to a former, not a present, attitude.
The theme of avenging in True Grit is not related to the idea of revenge. The ultimate goal is to bring the killer to justice, either by capturing him and taking him back to stand trial before a civil magistrate, or by killing him in a gunfight if he violently resists arrest. Mattie’s statement that she will shoot the murderer herself if the law fails to do so, refers to the law’s failure to bring the killer in, not to the idea of killing him if he is declared not guilty.
Mattie’s insistence on accompanying Rooster while he tracks the murderer is not presented in a feminist light, and her stated motives are are personal interest in seeing the job’s conclusion, and her (legitimate) concern that Rooster will just walk off with her money.
Mattie wakes up to find a man casually waiting across the room for a parley. He later remarks that he had thought about stealing a kiss while she was asleep. This idea is not played positively.
Mattie occasionally uses her wit and intelligence to one-up people who are in conflict with her or who treat her disdainfully.
Mattie wants her father buried in his Mason’s apron.
Rooster gets drunk, and is very negatively portrayed for it.
Characters smoke cigarettes or a pipe.
A negatively-portrayed character mentions gambling.
1 This situation would be the equivalent of a man wearing a woman’s belt or scarf out of practical necessity, not the equivalent of a man wearing a woman’s outfit.