Skip to main content

Review: True Grit


Why remake a western starring one of its genre's most legendary icons? Why take an unknown as the lead? Why cast a man most widely known for playing a stoner as Marhal Rooster Cogburn? Why the hell not?

This may come as blasphemy, but it needs to be said: John Wayne may have won his Oscar for True Grit but his take on the role is nothing close to what the novel sought. Current Marshal Cogburn was once a Confederate soldier who participated in the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas. The Duke had too much of a clean-cut image to live up to to take on the more despicable qualities of his character, so Bridges has enough room to make the character his own. Bridges's Cogburn is a man that an orphaned girl (Hailee Steinfeld) can turn to for true grit.

She hires the Marshall to take vengeance against the man who killed her father and insists on riding shotgun because she can't trust him to go it alone. Along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon, sporting a glorious mustache) who has his own reasons for wanting Chaney, but he provides many zingers while the trio treks through Indian territory. Young Mattie is the only character who mildly resembles common sense between the drunkard, the over-inflated Texas Ranger and the grotesque Tom Chaney (poor, poor Josh Brolin).

Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is truly a lead actress and the little attention that has been brought to her performance seems like a slight. In a cast filled with A-list caliber acting, she sets the sole focus of the story about Mattie's drive for vengeance in a world seemingly short of people willing to find it with her.

Those looking for it can find a spiritual link between this film, No Country for Old Men, and A Serious Man, each film, at some point, elaborates that evil can be fought in this world, but it rarely comes without larger consequences.

The plot largely remains the same of the original. While it is shot just as beautifully as No Country for Old Men, this film is not as menacing. The Coens cut back on some of the dark nihilism that the brothers have trademarked in over the years. Don't fret though, the ironic comedy is still around in spades (the first we hear of Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn is in an outhouse). Somewhere I can hear Joel and Ethan laughing.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…