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Movie Reviews
by Jonathan McKee and Todd Pearage

True Grit (06/07/2011)


Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld


Jonathan's Rating: Worth Buying

Todd's Rating: Worth Buying


This movie has “true grit.”

Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with "true grit," Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her "grit" tested.

TODD’S WORD: I’m not saying we have to start here, but let’s start with the directors. What do you think about Joel and Ethan Coen?

JONATHAN’S WORD: I love these guys. From Fargo to No Country for Old Men. These guys are truly amazing. Yes, they’ve had a few duds. But usually I love their stuff.

TODD’S WORD: I totally agree. They don’t necessarily make family films…but they do make great films. Some people may not “approve”, but I love Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?

JONATHAN’S WORD: I even love their obscure stuff like Barton Fink.

TODD’S WORD: The Coen Brothers know how to get great actors to deliver great performances. And with a cast that features Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, you can bet there will be Oscar buzz.

JONATHAN’S WORD: I can’t agree more. I think Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld deserve something. They were both amazing. I actually went back and watched the old John Wayne film after I saw this one. Wayne received an Oscar for it, and he wasn’t half as good as Bridges.

TODD’S WORD: Correct me if I’m wrong, but westerns are a lot like “kung Fu” movies. There are a ton of movies, most of them run together, the story lines are all basically the same (somebody got killed and someone else is trying to kill /capture the bad guy) and there are some great action scenes. The thing that makes a western a great western is the characters. And True Grit is a great western.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Hmmmm. I don’t know if I agree. Yes, they all have similar elements. But when I look at some of my favorite westerns—Open Range, Silverado, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly—very different films. But yes, good likable characters often make the film.

TODD’S WORD: I was a little worried going into the film, because the Coen Brothers have been known to push the limits (not a huge fan of Burn After Reading and The Lady Killers), but this film was as clean as you can make a gritty western.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Yes, the Coen Brothers aren’t always squeaky clean, but yes, this film had nothing objectionable in it at all. I’ll let all three of my kids see it.

TODD’S WORD: I love westerns, I love The Coen Brothers and I love Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin…I was pretty sure I was going to like it and I did. It’s Worth Buying for me.

JONATHAN’S WORD: Absolutely. I plan on picking it up on Blu Ray the day it’s released.


SHOULD KIDS SEE IT?
Surprisingly this movie was pretty clean. There is no sex or nudity and even the language is on the mild side. The violence is what gets the PG-13 rating.


Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

Q: What’s the message/theme of this movie?

A: This film is about justice, unfortunately the main character in the film is bound and determined to do whatever it takes to get it. And that includes killing the man who killed her father.

Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
A: In Malachi 6:8 we are told to act justly (He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God).

Our struggle comes when we want to take matters into our own hands. Sometimes we want justice so badly we compromise our integrity or act inappropriately. In those moments we need to trust in God’s sovereignty and believe that he, as the true Judge, will see to it that justice is served.

Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?
A: When we are wronged, we can do the hardest thing imaginable…practice grace. In Matthew 5:38-40 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

That may not be easy to do, but it’s what we are called to do.

We need to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. We are not called to disburse justice.



Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.



Todd Pearage Todd Pearage is a movie buff at heart, but he's not your traditional film critic. Todd is a blue collar film geek, from his job years ago at Blockbuster to his heartfelt online movie reviews. But Todd isn't just a film geek. He has worked with middle and high school students since 1991 as a youth pastor and is currently on staff at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Todd and his wife Lynda have three children, Brianna, Caleb and Addyson.



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