So long, John Wayne

True Grit (2010)

on December 03, 2010 by Pete Hammond
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truegritwebwatch.pngNo one really asked for it and some may resist it, but Joel and Ethan Coen's splendid new adaptation of Charles Portis' novel True Grit rides with the great ones. The story of young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who enlists the services of cantankerous "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and Texas Ranger Le Beouf (Matt Damon) to bring her father's murderer (Josh Brolin) to justice has been faithfully adapted for the screen. Smartly emphasizing Portis' quirky dialogue and dark comic tone, the Coens show the flare that made them famous. While the shadow of John Wayne's iconic Oscar winning performance in the 1969 classic looms large, Bridges makes the role his own and the Coens make the story their own. Purists may wonder ‘Why the remake?' but after seeing it will wonder no more. Although westerns have been few and far between in recent years, audiences and Coen fans should rally around this one with good, if not spectacular, box office success.

Centered around 14 year old Mattie's determination to find justice for her father's death, this character-based western gives attention to Portis' memorable exchanges and dialogue instead of hyped-up action scenes, (though there are plenty, particularly in the final third). Mattie, played in a no-nonsense way by scene-stealing Steinfeld, is a true original: she's independent, fiercely proud and endowed with a take-no-prisoners attitude. She and Cogburn make a formidable pair and they set out on a journey to exact revenge. This brings them in contact with unsavory characters and a reluctant third partner in Damon's Le Beouf (pronounced ‘beef'). The end result is somewhat predictable after all these years but "getting there" is very satisfying. The Coens have been stringently faithful to the book and their brilliant writing sounds natural coming out of the mouths of these colorful, oddball characters. Unlike the 1969 film, this version adheres closely to the spirit of the book, though the violence and the more over-the-top comic elements have been subdued in service of a PG-13 rating. Regardless, Coen aficionados will not be disappointed.

Very few actors would want to take on such a legendary and familiar role as the one Wayne so brilliantly inhabited, but Bridges, who worked with the Coens memorably in The Big Lebowski, shows no fear jumping into the skin of this cranky but heroic dude. Cogburn is a bigger than life creation, but Bridges dials him down, reins him in and lets him breathe. It's a great performance, as great as Wayne's, but in a different way. Damon is perfect casting and erases the sour memory of Glen Campbell's amateurish turn in the original. Brolin isn't in it much but fits comfortably into the shoes of the killer. Barry Pepper is a stand out among the cast of bad guys. As noted, Steinfeld is a real discovery and she manages to hold her own and prevail against actors performing at the top of their game. This really is her movie, but the touching relationship she forges with Cogburn makes it a pairing for the ages.

Technical aspects are flawless with special mention to Carter Burwell's nicely austere score and Roger Deakins' extraordinary cinematography. True Grit is a true winner, a triumph on every level for the Coen Brothers and one of the year's finest movies.

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Dakin Mathews
Directors/Screewriters: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Producers: Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Genre: Western
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
Running time: 110 min
Release date: December 22, 2010

 

Tags: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin, Dakin Mathews, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges
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14 Comments

  • fishman on 26 December 2010

    A big disappointment ! I kept waiting for something great from the Coen's but it never appeared. The young girl was annoying as well as all the bantering amongst the characters. I love westerns and hope they keep making them but please stop the ,remakes of boring ones. I'm sure someone can come up with a better story line,the libraries are full of books with good stories,please do more research Hollywood!

    • Stef on 23 January 2011

      You said it. If it weren't for the dashed hope that it HAD to get better, the beautiful terrain and the entertaining gritty persona Bridges won an oscar for LAST year, I would have left. Boring yet unbelievable, phony misplaced Olde English accent from Mattie (???) and the end? -Spoiler Alert- she turns out to be a grumpy old maid, missing a limb, that never reconnects with her unlikely friend because he was dead. BOOOOOOO!

  • Katieheather on 27 December 2010

    This was one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time. I think I'm actually going to see it again in the theater....it's beautiful to watch, the dialogue is amazing and I laughed out loud with the entire theaternthroughout the whole thing....so the young girl was amazing and the banter IS the movie. It is the Cohen brothers at their finest.

  • thomson on 28 December 2010

    Fishman complains that the Coen brothers found a boring book that isn't a good story. I quote Roald Dahl on the back cover of the original edition back in 1968:

    "True Grit is the best novel to come my way for a very long time. I was going to say it was the best novel to come my way since...Then I stopped. Since what? What book has given me greater pleasure in the last five years? Or in the last twenty? I do not know. I expect some have, but I cannot recall them right now. Marvelous it is. He hasn't put a foot wrong anywhere. What a writer!"

    I agree. Great book and a great story.

  • GloAnn on 28 December 2010

    Fishman - did someone pay you to this critism about the remake of one of the greatest American classics? In case you haven't noticed, THOUSDANDS of people disagree with your point of view.

  • TheHawg on 28 December 2010

    True Grit is my favorite book and the original movie is the same. I liked this new take very well. Matt Damon was far supperior to Glen Campbell, which was the only bad thing about the original; but I bet Matt Damon can't play guitar like Glen Campbell either. The only thing that I didn't like was that the movie didn't savor the wonderful diologe like the original did. They seemed to just rush through some very important dialog and skipped some all together. The Stonehill conversation was shortened. The court scene was a little rushed. The shooting of Cheany was rushed. I loved the shooting scenes; very realistic. The long shot scene was perfect.
    In closing, the new movie is a great one, but it should have been longer to allow proper pacing and inclusion of the wonderful diolog that made the original and book great. I will go see it again; maybe tonight.

  • sonofabeach on 29 December 2010

    Fishman is an idiot! No disrespect to the Duke, but this remake puts the original to shame. Go see it. It's a new classic!

  • Whylie on 30 December 2010

    The story is very American, at least how America was. Would Rooster Cogburn take the murderer to foreign soil and hide him away, under guard forever? KSM should be brought back to stand trial in New York City. We should build the gallows at ground zero and hang him right there. That's what Rooster would do.

  • Raystonwall on 02 January 2011

    I rather enjoyed the movie, as I am sure many other Duke fans have. For me, I viewed the movie not as a remake, but from a different viewpoint and thought that it was pulled off rather well. Yes, some big shoes had to be filled, but I fet that these present day actors, especially Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfield, did a super job in portraying the ir parts from a great American book (required reading for me in high school when the movie first came out). Unfortuantely others will view this movie from a predjudicial viewpoint and not give credit where credit is due. That will be their loss. The Duke can not be replaced, and I do not believe that Mr. Bridges intended to try to do so. Acting is one's interpretation and I enjoyed this interpretation tremendously.

  • jslt@socket.net on 02 January 2011

    Great Job. Jeff Bridges gets better with every year. Matt Damon always impressive. Hailee Stainfield refressing. Great quality film. Must see twice.

  • boomlarry on 09 January 2011

    I don't know what planet Fishman's from- Thiis is simply one of the best westerns ever. I loved the first and found this one just terrific. There is a lot of the same dialogue in both...but that's OK when it is brilliant dialogue! Bridges is perfectly repulsive as a very tough and very fallen alcohol soaked marshal. If only Wayne had made this one. Do not miss it.

  • ferrisd on 09 January 2011

    I realize that Fishman is a professional movie critic, and like most critics, he/she has done nothing but create more interest in the movie they write about in a negative way. Both True Grit movies, in my judgement, were entertaining, with the exception of Glen Campbell in the original. The latest True Grit was superior in all respects. I'll probably see it for the 3rd time this afternoon.

  • Bishman on 16 January 2011

    I'm going to see it right now. When my boys were home from college over Christmas break we rented the original True Grit so I could show the how great John Wayne was and how it would be hard to beat the original. I have horses and even dressed up as Rooster in a parade once. It has been a long time since I had seen the movie and I was disappointed in the original. Glen Campbell was supposed to be a Texas Ranger. One thing all the Rangers could do was ride a horse. I don't know who in Hollywood saddled his horse for him but the stirrups were about 4 inches too short which made Campbell look like a city slicker taking a horse ride at the Wisconsin Dells. He couldn't act or ride. I don't know why Robert DuVall or John Wayne didn't fix his saddle! John Wayne has two fantastic scenes "fill your hands you son of a bitch" and "come see a fat old man some time" as he jumps over the 4 rail fence. Overall though John Wayne wasn't as good as I remembered him. Just from looking at the pictures makes me wonder why they couldn't have put the patch over the same eye!!!

  • middlesis on 07 February 2011

    Jeff Bridges may as well get his tuxedo ready for the Oscars. Brilliant performance!

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