True Grit – Grace in flights and pursuits

Posted: January 17, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

The greatest movie of 2010 (in this blogger’s humble and correct opinion) begins with a Bible verse. True Grit starts with Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when none pursueth.”

Here is a good video for you to listen to while reading the post. Yes, we are multimedia; providing soundtrack for your enjoyment. As I write this I am listening to the marvelous soundtrack by Carter Burwell. I am moved as I think about the story, about the hymns used in the soundtrack, as I remember the astonishing cinematography of Roger Deakins. I liked this so much that I went after the original book by Charles Portis; what a great reading. The movie is beautiful and yet hard as the frozen soil of the Choctaw nation in which they search for the wicked man who is fleeing. Besides being hilarious at times.

The wicked one in question is Tom Chaney, who fled the town of Fort Collins, Arkansas, even though nobody bothered to pursue him after shooting an innocent man. A wicked and guilty heart knows he needs to flee. The movie tells the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield), daughter of the murdered man. As she puts it: “People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood. But it did happen.” Well, little sister, it is a rather amazing story.

Seeking to bring to justice the coward Tom Chaney, she hires a federal marshal to do the job he was supposed to do anyway and track the bad guy. All actors are excellent, Jeff Bridges is Marshal Rooster Cogburn, the meanest one there is; Matt Damon is the proud and cocky Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced Labeef) who helps in the search, Josh Brolin is Tom Chaney. The second part of the initial Proverb says that “the righteous are bold as a lion.” Mattie believes herself to be righteous in her pursuit and her boldness and grit are apparent in river crossings, cold nights and sad tears.

As in any of the Coen Brother‘s movies, there is a plethora of fabulous and colorful secondary roles that will have you giggling and wide eyed (the bear man!!!). They are among the most skilled and remarkable filmmakers in the planet (one of these days I will write about A Serious Man and No Country for Old Men) . It is worth noticing this is not a remake of the John Wayne movie; rather, it is a new adaptation of the same book. It is better than Wayne’s movie in every aspect (acting, cinematography, editing, soundtrack…). Jeff Bridges has the role of Cogburn, a man who “don’t believe in fairy tales, sermons or any stories about money.” Mattie Ross is a remarkable character, and as she says in the books, she has always been more a Martha than Mary and she is restless concerning the murder. She is a sharp businesswoman and fierce in her pursuit of justice. Tom Chaney must come to justice and learn that “you must pay for everything in this world one way or another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” Yes little sister, and yet, as we will see even grace has a price.

The book is full of Biblical references, the movie uses some and adds others (the Ezekiel reference and Psalm 23, for example). The climate of the film is very religious. Mattie is a Presbyterian girl. In the time of the story she was one of the Cumberland Presbyterians, but later in life changed to the Southern Presbyterian Church (as she claims, the Cumberland was rather weak on the doctrine of election; she goes on to provide several biblical verses to prove the doctrine!). In the book she complains about the man who preached at her father’s funeral: “I do not know to this day why they let a wool-hatted crank like Owen Hardy preach the service. Knowing the Gospel and preaching it are two different things.” Yes they are little sister.

Mattie seeks to interpret the world based on her knowledge of the Bible, and many times she is spot on. She explains that her father took under his wing the scoundrel Tom Chaney, and was shot while seeking to help him. Why did he interfere in Chaney’s business? Because he was his brother’s keeper. Mattie has a good grasp of God’s sovereignty along with human responsibility: In a certain moment she says regarding her quest: “The author of all things watches over me and I have a fine horse.” In their ride they find much hardship, they discuss life, they experience fear, roughness and much more. Rooster Cogburn is a man of true grit, but soon we learn that grit knows not age nor gender.

From now on serious spoilers.

Mattie’s quest for justice is quite biblical; she wants to see sin punished and cannot understand why others are not as bothered as she is by it. For Rooster and Laboeuf justice is more of a job. Mattie is similar to God in that he will always pursue justice; no sin will ever go unpunished. In this world every one of the wicked ones (that is, everyone) knows that they should flee; and all do flee from God (Rm 3:9-20). Finally Mattie takes revenge and shoots Chaney. While it was somewhat in self-defense, her goal was more of revenge than that of justice. Curiously, after having the satisfaction of taking the matter in her own hand she literally falls into a pit. In there, while scrambling to survive her wounds, she comprehends with horror that there are snakes living in the ribcage of a dead man. Bitten by a rattlesnake, her life is under serious threat.  The symbolism may or may not be intentional, but it is striking nevertheless – after taking revenge she falls and finds out that the snake lives in the human heart. Little sister, we are not all fully righteous are we?

The desperate run for her life after the snake bite is immensely heartbreaking in that we see that the sacrifice of an innocent and valuable animal will be necessary to preserve her life from what the snake did to her. Biblical shades, of course. Her valuable and brave horse Little Blackie has a horrifying death and his demise under the stars is one of the saddest film moments ever. Mattie leans on Rooster’s gritty arms incapable of saving herself and it all has to be done on her behalf. As Mattie said, there is nothing free except the grace of God. But free grace, we must add, has cost, not for us, but for the only one who never had reason to flee and who was taken by evil marshalls and judges to be punished in the place of Chaneyses like all of us. That is why life and the movie can end while leaning on the everlasting arms.

At the end Mattie visits Cogburn’s grave, a quarter century after their adventure. She reminisces and tells us that time gets away from us. Yes it does little sister, but soon it won’t no more. Can you see why they call it good news?

Advertisements
Comments
  1. DustyOldTrail says:

    I love every single one of Emilio’s posts. I swear it must be the accent. We miss you like crazy up here but we are also glad God is working through you back where they know more about soccer.

    Thank you for the review. I liked this movie a lot simply because it had Jeff “The Dude Abides” Bridges, but you are right there is much to say about its biblical parallels. See you in Heaven if not sooner Emilio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s