The First and True Adaptation of “True Grit”

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True Grit is a fascinating film directed by Hathaway Henry and stars Darby Kim as Mattie Ross and Wayne John as Rooster Cogburn, a U.S marshal. The film is the first adaptation of the popular book in the same name, authored by Charles Portis, a celebrated comic writer, in 1968. It was re-adopted in 2010, starring Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. It is a story that is told by Mattie Ross, as she recounts the brutal murder of her father in 1873, and her audacious endeavor to seek justice and avenge his death while she was merely fourteen years old. She determinedly travels from her hometown in Arkansas, traversing through the vast Oklahoma wilderness in the quest to find her father’s killer, alongside a U.S Marshal named Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger. The film manifests a compelling definition of revenge, resilience and grit, and this is essentially depicted by the powerful organization of scenes that significantly marry the original novel by Charles Portis.

Perhaps one of the most compelling, eye-grabbing and intriguing scenes in the film is the overall introduction of the film. It commences with a long and enigmatic shot of a porch that is lit at night, which slowly fades away into view to tactfully reveal a seemingly dead body. The opening sequence is done gorgeously, whereby it tactfully sets the right tone even for the rest of the movie.

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The film commences by incorporating stereotypical western characteristics and features. It’s opening sufficiently utilizes narration added in post-production, in a bid to create the general narrative story arc of the entire film.

Mattie Ross, the protagonist in the movie, commences with a narrative statement, “…I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name Tom Chaney…” (Deakins). The film continues to employ further narration that is essentially aimed to entice the audience, as opposed to rather diegetic sounds through dialogue. The film does not use character interaction, to captivate its viewers and audience more through the use of narration, even as its plot develops further.

The film’s opening sequence masterfully uses a prolonged zoom in to a rather medium shot of a man who is laying on the ground, presumably dead or unconscious, in a somewhat low-key and subtle lit point or area. The extended zoom in approach in cinematography plays a great role in enticing the audience and grabs their attention to get more intrigued in the film, to comprehend the context of such-like events clearly.

‘True Grit’ tactfully employs a fade particularly between a medium shot of the presumably dead man lying on the ground, to make a smooth transition into a rather wide shot of Mattie Ross, the protagonist, riding on a horse seemingly away from the camera. The shot is seemingly more about the lying body than the horse, although it also seems simpler in terms of its elements. The snow, the boarding house, body in the streets, as well as horse passing briefly across the frame fortuitously expound on this scene. Again, this significantly entices the audience, particularly through creating mystery within the film’s narrative. As she rides past the presumably dead man, the narrating protagonist categorically asserts that “You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another.” (Deakins). Therefore, such powerful narrative sentiments further entice the audience, especially considering that it creates mystery within the overall film’s narrative. As such, it is a very effective modality of an opening sequence as opposed to many other westerns, owing to that it helps to display to the viewers or audience the key conventions and themes of western movies. Therefore, medium shot, tactful zooming in and the revelation of a man laying presumably dead in a pool of light characterize the film’s opening sequence, creating intrigue and sheer enthusiasm into the film.

The conventions and critical themes of the movie under discussion are further exhibited through the authenticated costume as well as in the overall mise en scene of its introduction or opening. In this respect, this goes a long way in giving a sense of a somewhat stereotypical western, especially considering that the devices alongside the wide shot in the film succinctly tell viewers essentially where the storyline is set, arguably in the Wild West, as depicted in the original novel (Portis).

As a result, this masterfully allows the audience to conveniently link in new or further iconographies they have with regards to this precise genre of film. As such, this greatly helps to entice them even further, as they continue to comprehend the movie to the extent that they expect and also appreciate the employment of conventions such as the use of narration incorporated in post-production typically over a zoom in. Hence, it significantly helps to establish a clear narrative of the particular film (Campbell, 315).

The opening sequence of the film under discussion critically helps to underscore its overall theme and plot, whereby the tactful narration by the protagonist depict a tone of bitterness and vengefulness to someone who murdered her father. She sets the introductory niche on a high precedent, and the resilience and grit entice the audience manifested even in her voice. As the plot develops and thickens in the film, the audience thus connects its overall bottom-line, which is to primarily to avenge the senseless murder of the protagonist’s father. The opening sequence, which is characterized by narrations of murder and essentially it must be avenged, further prepares the audience for the resilience, determination, grit and unmitigated audacity manifested by the protagonist, Mattie Ross and her accomplice, Rooster Cogburn, throughout the film (Mills).

In conclusion, True Grit is an immensely engaging, captivating and compelling film that underscores the height of determination, perseverance and fearlessness, as it tells the story of a young girl with utmost zeal to avenge the senseless killing of her father. The film incorporates ideal organization and transition of scenes from acclaimed author Charles Portis’ book similarly named. The opening sequence and introduction are arguably one of the most mind-blowing and intriguing scenes depicted in the film, as it integrates various cinematography and literary designs and modalities to support its overall plot. The film’s opening sequence masterfully, tactfully and effectively incorporates stereotypical conventions and themes of a western genre. Thus, through these conventions, the film manages to entice its audience into following the film. It has an incredibly memorable opening scene entailing a medium shot, zooming in, narration among other techniques mentioned above that appropriately set the tone for the utter magnificence that follows in the action drama.

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The First and True Adaptation of “True Grit”. (2022, Jun 05). Retrieved from

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