The Coen Brothers’ set themselves up for a challenge by deciding to do a re-make of a classic Western film, True Grit, that starred John Wayne. The Coens work again with Jeff Bridges from his role as The Dude in The Big Lebowski and give him the tough role of replacing John Wayne from the original True Grit (1969). But do not let the movie poster fool you, while Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin all do exceptional jobs, the true stand out is the young, less-known Hailee Steinfeld.
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is a fearless 14 year old farm girl whose father was recently murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She sets out to capture the killer with help from a U.S. Marshal who is notorious for being ruthless. Considered a man with “true grit” she hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Cogburn was recently on trial for being so careless with the amount of killings from his trigger-happy finger. She deems this a perfect candidate to help her seek redemption.
A Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) explains he would like to join Mattie and Cogburn in their effort to capture Chaney. Both LaBoeuf and Cogburn decide to try ditching the young girl to catch the killer and split the reward money between them. However, Mattie is forceful and stubborn, thus not easy to get rid of. The three set out on a journey filled with danger and unexpected circumstances.
It was not blatantly evident that True Grit was done by the Coen brothers. Typically, Ethan and Joel Coen put a quirky and irony touch to their films, however, they normally do original films that produce massive cult followings. This is time they decided to do a re-make of a classic John Wayne Western film. So do not go into it assuming they are picking up where they left off from No Country for Old Men, it has a lesser “Coen brothers” feel to it.
The cinematography in this film is phenomenal. True Grit looks like an authentic Western shot from the time period thanks to Roger Deakins. The buildings, clothing and even their language felt very true and accurate. The shots around the campfire were pleasantly done and the landscape is majestic.
The thing I enjoyed the most about True Grit was the acting performances. Jeff Bridges was born to play Westerns, he has the lazy, raspy voice that perfectly fits the role. This is something that proved true in the last film he did, Crazy Heart. The two roles were not all that different. Matt Damon did not seem too out of place as I expected he might. Hailee Steinfeld had the right amount of passion required for her role as a determined and stubborn lead character.
True Grit has a straightforward storyline that showcases beautiful landscapes and talented actors while proving that re-makes of classic Western’s are still possible. While I am not a huge fan of the Western genre, I feel like the Coen brothers paid some homage to the genre and did nothing over-the-top, probably for the better. However, I could see an even split between Coen lovers loving it or hating it, since it does not scream Coen. But if you like Western’s or just want to see a well-made one, you do not have to look further than True Grit.