Now, before I get into how good the film is, I’m going to make a statement. I haven’t seen the original version of this film. As much as I attempted to find it before this version came out, I never did. But the advantage of that is that I can see True Grit as a movie in its own right, and not as a remake.
I was a bit dubious about going to see this film. I am a huge fan of the Joel and Ethan Coen, but they have made a couple of bad films; the most obvious being the terrible remake of The Ladykillers in 2004. I went to the cinema with this thought in the forefront of my mind, but I needn’t have worried.
The film is more than deserving of its ten Oscar nominations, not to mention the 13 awards it has already won to date. It tells the story of Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old farm girl on the hunt for revenge on the man who murdered her father. She hires U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), whom she has heard has “true grit”, to join her on her hunt.
The film is trademark Coen brothers territory. The cinematography, done by Roger Deakins, is beautiful and the film has the usual group of Coen actors to boot. Bridges plays the drunken reprobate Cogburn, made famous in the original by John Wayne, marvellously well. He shows his flexibility as an actor in this role and is teamed up perfectly with Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie, who is here in her first major film role. This film has made Steinfeld a star, and for good reason. She portrays Ross as a hardened young girl, angry at the loss of her father and determined to see the man responsible bought to justice. She is bound to become a regular fixture in future films made by the brothers. The final piece of the puzzle is LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon, who is also after Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men) for his own reasons. Now I am not a big fan of Damon, but this role is a triumph for him, and shows him as an excellent serious actor, and not just Jason bloody Bourne.
The main disappointment for me in this film is the fact that Tom Chaney himself is barely in the film at all. He makes his first appearance well over an hour into the film, and it isn’t long before he disappears again. However Brolin does make the most of his limited screen time, allowing the audience to get to know his character and begin to feel some sympathy for him before he leaves abruptly. Also, the end of the film seems to wind up all too quickly. The first half of the film is well paced, but the second half feels almost rushed, as though they were trying to wrap up the film so it would finish within the typical two hour film time. This film could have gone on for an extra half hour and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it any less.
In all, this film is definitely worth a watch. It may not quite reach the heights of Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski but it is still very well made.