Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Corbin, Roy Lee Jones, Paul Rae, Nicholas Sadler
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
It took the Coen Bros. to get me out of the house to see one of these new-fangled remakes, but unfortunately I cannot report that it is entirely worth the trouble. The original True Grit is a household favorite from my childhood and I’ve probably seen it through at least twenty times, with many half viewings and random scenes thrown in for good measure. It was such an integral part of my youth that certain lines became standard jargon around the house. Imagine my surprise when many of these lines are represented within this newer, shinier grittier version. I can’t say that I expected that.
On the acting front, everybody is up to the task and I found the casting to be especially well done. Jeff Bridges is excellent as Rooster Cogburn, going after the far-gone drunk with a shambling, cocky zeal. Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf perfectly as well, managing to serve his purpose without being in your face. It reminded me in this way of his subtle performance in Invictus. I did entertain the idea while watching that Tim McGraw or Dwight Yoakam could have played the role and re-recorded Glen Campbell’s theme from the original, but only in jest. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld carries the picture and she does it with an admirable courage, representing the solid, stubborn Mattie Ross better than any known actress could have. Also, Barry Pepper was fucking awesome as the gang leader Lucky Ned Pepper. I wish he was in the movie more.
So when a film I grew up loving is remade, my initial reaction is the requisite anger flowing into indifference. When said remake is from the Coen Brothers, who sit high on my list of working filmmakers, I realize that despite any misgivings I may have I will be powerless to resist seeing it. I also figured that if these noted gentleman have decided to remake a film, they have a reason or an angle to put on it so that it feels like a Coen version of the story. When they finally decided to work from material that wasn’t theirs in 2007, the resulting No Country For Old Men quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. Obviously, that’s a hard act to follow but throughout the runtime of True Grit I kept searching for that spark, that reason why they made the film. Honestly, I never found it.
In any case, it’s a good film that audiences unfamiliar with the story will likely enjoy and look to as proof that good Westerns are still possible. Don’t let me discourage you from seeing it. If you are familiar with the original though, it’s pointless. It’s good, I liked it. But it’s pointless.