Release Date: 26 January 2011
True Grit written and directed by the infamous Coen Brothers (A Serious Man) is the second adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name, the first starred John Wayne in the 1969 western. The 2011 version is more an adaptation of the novel rather than a remake of the John Wayne classic. The film is narrated by the adult Mattie Ross (Elizabeth Marvel) who provides the backstory of how her father was murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) when the then fourteen year old Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) hires US Marshall, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt him down. However Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Matt Damon) is also on Chaney’s trail for another murder committed in Texas. Rooster decides to join forces with La Boeuf much to Mattie’s chagrin, and she insists on accompanying them on their mission.
True Grit is different to other Coen films (Burn After Reading, Fargo) with less irony and more emphasis on classic old fashioned storytelling. However what is similar is the Coen’s emphasis on language, accents and engaging dialogue in this adapted screenplay. The clever diatribe is what makes this film especially the repartee between Maddie, Rooster Cogburn and Labouef and is authentic to time, place and context . This along with costumes, set design, attention to detail and all beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins depicts the western period so well.
Jeff Bridges had big shoes to fill in emulating John Wayne and it sees him reunited with Joel and Ethan Coen after the Big Lebowski. Bridges performance is solid as the alcoholic, flawed Rooster but with a sense of righteousness, almost reminiscent of Crazy Heart.
Hailee Steinfield in her film debut makes a standout performance. She beat 15,000 other girls to win the part and steals the scenes from the veteran Bridges and has the accents and nuances down pat. Even Matt Damon is surprising as Labouef demonstrating greater range and subtlety than his one note formulaic Bourne series. After watching this I was convinced that Damon actually had some acting ability.
Thoroughly enjoyable and compelling viewing in this ode to the western.
For general release check cinema guides for location and session times.