Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: True Grit

The novel True Grit (1968) by Charles Portis is a highly regarded western, which has been adapted to film twice. The more recent of the two adaptations was released in 2010 by the Coen brothers and starred Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, Jeff Bridges as Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney. The film starts with narration from 14-year-old Mattie Ross, telling the viewer how her father was killed. It then cuts to her on the train, going to see her father’s body and have it sent home to her mother. When Mattie talks with the town sheriff about arresting the man, Tom Chaney, responsible, he informs her that there was nothing he could do because the killer fled into Native American territory. Not happy with this answer, she asks the sheriff if she could hire a U.S. Marshal to arrest Chaney, and he points her in the direction of Rooster Cogburn. After much convincing, Rooster eventually takes Mattie’s deal and agrees to track down Chaney for her. It turns out that Chaney is also a wanted man in Texas, and a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, is attempting to arrest him for his crimes in the other state. Mattie doesn’t like that if LaBoeuf catches Chaney, he will not be held accountable for her father’s murder. The two men decide that they don’t want a young girl to get in the way of their search for Chaney and attempt to leave her behind. Mattie is determined, though, to see justice for her father, so eventually, Cogburn and LaBoeuf give in and allow her to come with to catch Chaney. In this blog, I will be looking at how fidelity, the essence of the medium, and story elements contribute to the effectiveness of this adaptation. 

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