Thursday, January 27, 2011

Movie – True Grit (2010)

The first thing you should know is that this is not a remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie.  It is a more faithful adaptation of the original book, which was also the basis for the 1969 movie.  This version is a little more serious and has a couple of key differences in the ending (which I won’t be spoiling.)

The premise of this movie is that in the late 1800s a 14 year old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) has come to a western town to see to her father’s funeral arrangements.  He was killed by a man he had hired.  She is outraged that the law in the town doesn’t seem to put much hope behind ever catching the man.  While she is there she asks around and finds out that Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is the toughest man around and she hires him to go after her father’s killer.  There is another lawman, a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon), who is on the trail of the killer for a different crime.  The three of them all end up going after him.

Comparisons to the 1969 movie are inevitable, so here goes: 

The biggest difference is that the directors (Joel and Ethan Coen) cast a real 13 year old girl for the role, whereas the older movie cast an adult.  Hailee Steinfeld does a great job in the role and was justifiably nominated for an Oscar for what is really her first major film role.  The only problem is that the nomination is for Best Supporting Actress when she is the main character in the movie.  The 1969 movie focused on Marshall Cogburn, since it was John Wayne playing him.  This movie focuses on the girl.  There is a great scene early on where she is negotiating with a trader in the town to deal with her father’s horses.

Another difference is that Jeff Bridges plays the role of Marshall Cogburn more seriously than Wayne did.  He still is a drunkard and there is still humor about that, but overall he’s playing closer to the original book.  If your favorite scene from the 1969 movie is where Cogburn takes the reins in his teeth then I can confirm that is in this version, too.  I have to give the edge to John Wayne on that one, though.

The third major character is played by Matt Damon.  He was played by Glen Campbell in the original.  Campbell was many things, but he was not a very good actor.  Damon is definitely a step up from Campbell.  He also plays the character as less likable than Campbell did.

Without going into any key details on the ending, I will say that it has left some people feeling that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.  I’m one of them.  It is an epilogue shown many years after the events of the film.  Because there is a new actress playing the main role, though, there just isn’t the emotional resonance that you’ve built up over the last 90+ minutes with Steinfeld’s performance.  I was left knowing I was supposed to be feeling something, but I just didn’t connect with the character.

This is the only negative I found with the film though.  Unless you hate westerns, you should see this movie.  It is playing in theaters.  The DVD and Blu-ray release dates have not been set, but they are available for pre-order now.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray                    Paperback                   Kindle


  1. I agree> I think most of the movie should have been told in flashback, starting out with the older Mattie appearing first on her way to see Cogburn. But who I am to tell the Coens how to make a film? This was a very entertaining movie and I think the cinematographer should have won an Oscar.

  2. Tom - Starting with Older Mattie would actually have been a good idea. It's my understanding that the movie follows the book pretty closely, so that's probably why the Coens did what they did.

  3. Yeah Ive read the book and it does follow closely like the older one does and there are some liberties too like the medicine mad wasn't in the book, and a few other characters like the boy in the stable who gives Mattie the horse. I don't see why they just couldn't take a few more liberties and just add a few scenes of older Mattie on a train...then cut to younger Mattie on the train. That would have added a punch to it I think.

  4. The Nostalgia Critic posted an interesting comparison of both films. Worth a look if you have seventeen minutes to spare.

  5. @Ian - thanks for the link. My first thought when I read your comment was "How does he know it will take me 17 minutes to read the article?" When I saw it was a video, I caught a clue.

    I don't agree with a couple of his choices, but that's to be expected. Everybody's got opinions.

    It felt like he was going for a Weird Al Yankovic feel with his attempts at humor. I actually preferred him when he stuck to making his case for his choices.

    Thanks for your comments.

  6. The scene with Mattie and the trader early on was fantastic.

    Fun fact: the actor who played the trader also played Headmaster Charleston on "The Gilmore Girls." Which is only one of my most favorite TV shows of all time. And also one of the LAST people I EVER expected to see in a Coen bros. western.

    Nice comparison. Everything I've read about Wayne versus Bridges seems to back up what you say; Wayne was playing Wayne, Bridges was playing Rooster Cogburn.

  7. I tried a couple of times early on to watch The Gilmore Girls. I think I had the misfortune to pick "Very Special Episodes" because they seemed to be filled with a lot of dislike of one character for another, which is counter to what I had heard about the show. Personally I really disliked the grandmother character, from what I saw of her.

    I actually have the first couple seasons of the show on DVD sitting on my shelf. I picked them up for a little bit of nothing figuring I'd give the show a try some day. I did that with more than a few shows, many of which I've never gotten around to watching. (This was before Netflix starting carrying so many TV shows.)