They say remakes seldom better the original, but it’s hard to imagine the 1969 John Wayne classic (which I haven’t seen) being better than the new version from my favourite filmmaking duo. True Grit is vintage Coen Brothers, more No Country For Old Men than The Big Lebowski but still funny and quirky. And when it comes to dialogue, human interactions and suspense, few can compare with Joel and Ethan Coen.
Based on Charles Portis’s 1968 novel of the same name, this version of True Grit is supposedly truer to the original source. It tells the story of young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a wise-beyond-her-years 14-year-old who seeks to avenge the death of her father by tracking down and killing Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To do so, she seeks the assistance of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a merciless but drunk and out-of-shape Deputy US Marshal. Tagging along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is chasing Chaney for an unrelated crime.
I’m not usually a fan of Westerns, but True Grit had me hooked from the beginning. It moves with at a pace similar to No Country, which might be on the slow side for some, but whichever way you look at this film — whether it’s the screenplay, the performances or the direction — it’s top notch. And all through out was that trademark Coen Brothers touch, that unexpected, random hilarity that I can never get enough of.
Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon were expectedly excellent (as were Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper in smaller roles), but it was the remarkable performance of young Hailee Steinfeld that carried the film from start to finish. Good to see that she received an Oscar nomination, but how it was for Best Supporting Actress as opposed to Best Actress (considering she was in just about every scene) beats the hell out of me.
My only complaint was that it felt like the film needed subtitles at times because of the excessive mumbling (mostly by Jeff Bridges) which made the conversations difficult to follow. But apart from that, an awesome experience.
4.25 stars out of 5