- Directed, Written, Produced, and Edited by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
- December 22, 2010
A young girl enlists the help of a drunken marshal to bring her father’s killer to justice.
I admit I avoided this 2010 version of True Grit for quite some time. I think the John Wayne film version of the book is very near Western movie perfection if not the perfect Western, so I was extremely hesitant to take a look at this. How do you equal or exceed greatness? Usually what you get is something hollow. A pale imitation.
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Unlike most remakes or reimaginings or versions that say they are more faithful to the source material, this film stands on its own and does not look as if it’s attempting to ride the coattails of its predecessor. It is an enjoyable enough film in its own right.
I know nothing about the book that either film draws its inspiration from. In fact for the longest time while I enjoyed the original True Grit I was not aware that it was based on a book. To go off a bit, even today I encounter films where I’m surprised there was any literary involvement. Cobra, the cheesy 80s action epic from Stallone, is one such example but I’m getting really off track here.
I have a general issue with more recently made Westerns and that’s when it comes to interior shots. I know they didn’t have electric lights back then, but this need to poorly illuminate interiors in order to make it more realistic is very annoying. Just brighten up the interiors a little bit so we can see more clearly what’s going on. This cinematic sin is common among any Western made within the last 30 or 40 years.
There is another Western film that has been happening for 30 or 40 years. I also admit to not being an expert in Old West fashion, but would it really hurt to dress characters in clothing that’s something other than deep black or dark brown? I would imagine there were other colors available to the settlers at the time. I could be wrong, but it wouldn’t hurt to vary the color palette of the clothing. The characters here are very monochromatic.
I don’t know what it is about Jeff Bridges, but he seems to mumble the lines of his rougher characters. He’s not unintelligible but he sounds like a dude talking with a fistful of food in his mouth. It can be a bit much. You can sound rough and tough and old while still clearly enunciating your lines.
Despite his mumbling, his acting isn’t bad in the part of Marshal Rooster Cogburn-the role originally made iconic by John Wayne. Jeff Bridges is a very good actor in his own right, and he’s had many memorable roles during his career so he was perhaps one of the best options for the part.
Hailee Steinfeld was cast as the young Mattie Ross. She is all business and a headstrong. What the character lacks in experience she makes up for in intelligence and will. Mattie, believing that none will hunt down her father’s killer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) who has fled into Indian Territory with “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) and his gang, she sets about finding someone who can and will pursue. Actress Elizabeth Marvel and Ruth Morris, a 29-year-old social worker and student who was born without a left forearm, played Mattie at 40 years old. I thought Kim Darby did a good job originally, but Steinfeld did well also.
Matt Damon takes on the role of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. LaBoeuf is a bit self-promoting and has a tendency to go on but is a capable officer. This is more of a supporting role and I was surprised to find Damon taking it on. Normally he is the star but not here. Glen Campbell was more charming in the role while Damon makes him more elitist.
Roy Lee Jones is the man servant Yarnell Poindexter. Domhnall Gleeson is Pepper Gang member Moon-a role memorably played previously by Dennis Hopper. Dakin Matthews is Colonel Stonehill whom Mattie spars with during a bartering session. J. K. Simmons is the voice of lawyer J. Noble Daggett.
This version of the story is as much of a drama as the original was. It’s about Mattie Ross trying to bring her father’s killer to justice with the help of a curmudgeonly old marshal. It is about journeying from childhood to adulthood.
Both films follow many of the same beats and have very similar moments which makes me think those are the points that each film matches what occurred in the book. This movie doesn’t slide the name True Grit on something not even close to the original film or even the book. It works because it is a new yet similar version of the story. It does what The Magnificent Seven remake failed to do.
Having said all that, this is no more a revisionist Western than the original was as both follow a very similar story and pattern. It’s hard to not think of the original film when they utter certain lines that are extremely similar if not identical. Still though there is enough different in the presentation that you won’t consider this a pale imitation or a bastardization of the concept.
True Grit 2010 is one of the few reboots or reimaginings that is good. It’s an enjoyable film that is well directed and well written. This is a watch it!