“True Grit” Review
The Coen brothers have crafted yet another superb film with an epic remake of John Wayne’s 1969 classic western, “True Grit”. It really lives up to its name, taking all of the polish of the genre and fully realizing the unbearably rough nature of life in the old west. The story remains true to the original as the 14 year-old girl, Mattie, hires grizzly Marshall Rooster Cogburn to hunt down the outlaw who killed her father. The two of them team up with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf and set out across the rough terrain in search of their prey.
To be honest, I don’t remember the original very well. I saw it as a teenager and have never revisited the film. I do, however, recall that it was far less “gritty” than this one. John Wayne’s Cogburn was more John Wayne than anything else. The Duke is a legend in many people’s eyes, but I have to say that I found him to be more of a movie-star than a quality actor. The same cannot be said of Jeff Bridges. This latest version of the one-eyed lawman is a memorable creation whose alcoholic breath almost reeks through the screen. His tattered clothes, we imagine, have not been washed or changed in many months. His speech is that of a gruff veteran who knows the way of the world and doesn’t much care about the people in it. Jeff Bridges completely immerses himself in the character in one of the best acting examples of 2010.
Hailee Steinfeld is nothing short of magnificent as Mattie, the plucky and eloquent girl who manipulates the adults around her with a sharp tongue and a keen wit. She is tightly wound and fiercely determined to track down the murderer. Her performance is at the heart of the story and she helps to elevate the material from a simple remake to a new classic in the genre.
Matt Damon is also in fine form as LaBeouf. He is fast becoming one of the elite actors of this generation, continuously choosing challenging and original material. This role is no exception. He is a vital component in this heroic trio. It ranks as one of the best supporting performances of the year.
The dialogue is quick-witted and intelligent. There are laughs to be found throughout this weighty material. “True Grit” represents one of the finest examples of screenwriting I have come across. The landscapes and the cinematography are all rather spectacular and the direction is the work of seasoned professionals who are confident and assured of what they want to deliver. Everything about this remake demands Oscar consideration.
I have to confess that I was underwhelmed by the ending. Something about its brevity left me hollow. I suppose I just wanted a little more time with Mattie and some more meat on the tired bones of Rooster and LaBoeuf. Other than that minor quibble, I have to say that this is a great movie in virtually every way.