True Grit Review

Published 3 years ago by

true grit review True Grit Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman Reviews True Grit

For anyone concerned that this review will spend a lot of time comparing the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit to the 1969 original, you’re in luck – it’s been many years since I watched the one with John Wayne, so you’ll be getting a “stand alone” review of this latest film.

It’s a simple story: The daughter of a murdered father in the Old West is out for justice against the man who did the deed – but with an unlikely protagonist… a 14 year old girl. The girl enlists an old, rough-hewn man of the law to help her track down and capture the villain. It’s a character-driven film and its success or failure rests fully on the shoulders of these two characters.

Thank goodness the Coens chose Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges as the shoulders on which to rest this responsibility.

Hailee absolutely rules the screen as young Mattie Ross. She’s brash, overly confident in order to be taken seriously, and someone not to be messed with. While some might find her annoying, I found her to be an absolute joy to witness on screen and was sad whenever the movie veered away from her to focus on other characters. Jeff Bridges – what can you say? The “dude” rules. He owns the role of Rooster Cogburn here, without a doubt. Old, crotchety, weary and wise – it’s all there and he wears it like a comfortable old leather jacket.

Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf, a straight-laced, by-the-book, proud Texas Ranger. He’s there to add a touch of humor to the film, and while I’m sure many will disagree with me, next to Steinfeld and Bridges I thought he really paled in comparison. That’s not to say he wasn’t good in the role – it’s just a case of a small candle juxtaposed against two roaring fires. Having said that, I did warm up to him towards the end of the film.

The killer who is being tracked throughout the film is named Tom Chaney, and we have no idea who our heroes will be up against when they finally meet him. He’s painted alternately as a canny villain and as a not so bright run of the mill criminal. When we finally meet Josh Brolin in the role, the way he plays it is an interesting combination of both.

Now I don’t usually begin reviews with breakdowns of the actors/characters, but in a film like this it’s all about them, and frankly they’re so rich that they will be what you remember about the film more than anything else after you leave the theater. It’s not just each character, but the interplay and dialog between them that makes True Grit a rich experience. The scene where Mattie negotiates an experienced shop owner into excruciating, painful submission is worth the price of admission just on its own.

As to the rest, the Coens have delivered what can only be called a classic Western. You won’t find any “cool” camera angles, no quick-cut, hip editing here – just simple, classic direction. Considering what’s out there today this is a breath of fresh air. Beautiful vistas, sets, costumes, gunfights and cinematography that feel genuine to the era – the Coens just did a damned good job here. If there’s one complaint from me, it’s that I enjoyed the first half of the film (which was much more Mattie/Rooster focused) than the second half, where more characters came in and took away from the screen time of those two wonderful actors and their characters.

At the end of the film, I felt genuinely disappointed that it was over – and I’m here to tell you I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about ANY movie. True Grit gets a big, big recommendation from me.

Here’s the trailer for True Grit:

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Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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TAGS: 4 star movies, true grit

92 Comments

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  1. Well said, sir.

    TRON: Legacy has 3D eye candy galore, but this is the Jeff Bridges movie that everyone ought to check out over the holiday season.

  2. Im impressed and quite excited to go see this now.
    Hopefully it’s better than 3:10 to Yuma which I liked, but found to be drab and boring in too many scenes.

  3. Damnit Vic. Your review is making me wanna fork out money to see this now…

  4. I cant wait.We havent gotten a really excellent old school western since Unforgiven.

  5. The only problem I had with the film was that I felt it lacked a heart. But the characters and the acting made up for it (I feel like Steinfeld should get a best actress nomination instead of the supporting actress nod she’s campaigning for).

    But I agree about Damon, although I warmed up to him much sooner then you did, but I found his character unnecessary.

    • She should go for the Supporting role nod, because there she has a chance to win. In the Leading Actress category, either Natalie Portman or Annette Bening is going to take the glod.

      • I know that, but she doesn’t have much of a chance to win in either fields (Leo or Carter are in the lead for Supporting Actress and Portman will definitely win Best Actress), but I just felt that her performance is worthy of a lead nomination and that she gave the best female performance of the year. (Yes, even better than Portman and Bening)

        • I’m not sure about Melissa Leo, I think Amy Adams gave a better performance, but that’s just me. Bonham-Carter, on the other hand, has strong possibilities of winning. Steinfeld could win, if the SAGs give her the award.

          • I’m not sure who I though gave the better performance of the two actually, Leo or Adams. Maybe Leo. And the buzz for Carter has significantly quieted while Leo has won a handful of pre-curser awards so that makes her a stronger candidate. But Steinfeld has a chance at the SAG awards I think.

  6. Super excited to see this! frickin loved Jeffery since Fabulous Baker Boys

  7. Excited to see this movie now.

  8. OMG! Now I really can’t wait to see this one!

  9. I agree completely. I thought the performances of Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges were incredible. I’m really interested to see what Steinfeld does next. But I think those performances only made Matt Damon’s performance look that much worse. He didn’t do a bad job (except for the accent), but compared to the other two, he looked pretty bad.

    It’s about time we get a good western, though.

  10. Man,great review. I love a good western. Guess I will be catching this.

  11. I loved this movie from the beginning til the last 3 minutes. I give it an enthusiastic 5 stars. Yes I’m a huge Coens Brothers fan and even though this doesn’t seem to be in their wheel house they did not disappoint. I was hoping for more of a fairytale ending but I was still very satisfied

    I thought all 3 performers were excellent. Sure Damon takes a backseat here but he pulls off his straight as an arrow boyscout excellently

    The movie is about the characters so anyone thinking is action packed shoot’em up don’t bother.

  12. Just came from the film. I was a huge fan of the first True Grit.

    This version is one of the best Westerns ever made. Think Lonesome Dove good, perhaps better. Acting is amazing. Better than the original.

    I disagree with the critiques of Damon above. He plays a character with less depth to play off of Mattie and Rooster, and he does it perfectly. I think he is so good at it, that the critic got lost in the difference between his acting and the role, in my opinion.

    Great action. The fortunes of gun play were very real and believable, and the ways in which the film developed relationships between the characters, amazing. If you are sick of stereotyped Hollywood hero’s dodging through hails of bullets while throwing out bland one liners, then this film is for you. The mortality expressed in the ending, is also amazing.

    Some really fantastic acting and character development in this film. 5 Stars, must see.

    • I have to agree with the assessment of Matt Damon’s performance by pcvirginiabeach. He played the character, who wasn’t really very interesting next to a more experienced, but crotchety old drunk, and a bold, sassy young girl. Otherwise, the review hits the mark.

  13. This movie was LONG, BORING, & not as advertised. I thought this movie was going to be action packed, but it was far from it. If you are a history buff or want to hear a TON of dialogue then this movie is for you. If I would have known this wasn’t an action flick like the commercials indicated then I wouldn’t be ripping it so bad. 2 out of 5 stars at the best

    • WHAT!? You mean its not a mindless action packed popcorn movie? Crap, I hate movies that make me think and stuff.

      • Don’t be pretentious. I enjoy movies that make me think. Where was this movie thought provokin? Yes acting was superb, it was well written, but if I order steak I don’t want beef tips, so if I go in wanted action like the commercials indicated then give me action.

        • Ok I’ll accept that, but your problem isn’t a problem with this movie in particular as it is a problem with movie advertising as a whole. Very few movies these days are come out exactly as advertised. Take Hurt Locker for example. After watching the trailer for that I would have thought it contained lots of action.

          • I thought it did have a good amount of action in it actually. Believable action, for a change…

    • Central60,

      Dude… who ever said this was “action packed?” Go see TRON: Legacy, maybe that’ll be more up your alley.

      Vic

    • I’ve seen a lot of the ads and the trailers numerous times. They did not indicate that the film would be action packed. Besides I knew that it would have the same amount of action as a typical Coen Bros. film.

      And as Jordan mentioned, if you felt that way about the film then its not the film’s fault but the marketing campaign’s fault.

    • Maybe you will LOVE Transformers 2, good luck ;)

  14. Great review thanks Vic. I knew this was going to be more of a character piece than straight action. Thats not a bad thing but some good ol fashioned gunslinging would def be appreciated. I’ve been following this one for a while and after reading this I think I’m going to go see it tonight. I wish we’d get more westerns these days but the ones we do get are usually pretty great movies. This looks to keep that streak going. I enjoyed 310 to Yuma and of course unforgiven, but one that people seem to forget is the proposition with guy pearce. now thats a western!(even tho its set in the outback). Cheers

    • Fenix,

      Let us know what you thought. :)

      Vic

      • Vic- Think you are wrong about the performance of Damon. I liked the fact that his character was less developed and a contrast to Mattie and Rooster. Worked well for the film. Thought he did a great job.

        • “and while I’m sure many will disagree with me, next to Steinfeld and Bridges I thought he really paled in comparison.”

          8)

          Vic

          • Vic- I’d have to see it again to really look at it… but it seemed like his character was meant to pale in comparison. I did not see it in the acting…

            • Great review by the way…

              • Thanks. :)

                Vic

  15. I can’t wait for this! Gonna see it tomorrow cause im working today. But good review Vic!

  16. Why not just make something original?

    • The Coens have made tons of originals, and this is more of an adaption then a remake in my opinion :)

      • While I don’t think they are the best film makers, I will agree that they do make original films. I just think it is a total waste of creative talent to do a remake of any kind.

        • I hear what your’e saying. Whenever I hear “remake” I shudder. Though when I heard this I thought “Right up their ally”.

          • Maybe we should tell the Shakespean acting troupes to stop reenacting Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet, in case you havent noticed, part of telling stories is telling them over. And in the hands of the right individual(s) females are better. Of course im referring to directors like the Coen brothers (true grit is NOT a remake, its another adaptation of the original book) or Peter Jackson with his supreme King Kong remake, that in all areas eclipses both the original 1933 film and the 80s remake. Just because its old, doesn’t mean its good. John Wayne was completely inauthentic, a he really was, was Hollywood’s bastardization of what cowboys were. End of discussion.

  17. Great reveiw, this is my most eagerly anticipated film of the year, and i agree with those that say if you want to see a Jeff bridges film it should be this,

  18. Agreed with first post. True Grit will make people forget about Tron, and Jeff Bridges needs that!

  19. I will be seeing this Christmas day with the family!!!

  20. On my way to see it now!

  21. Just got back and, dang! So good. Haile Stienfeld was excellent in her role as Mattie Ross. If she doesn’t get any award nods for this performance I will be surprised.

    • Sully- Wasn’t it refreshing to see action that was realistic… I loved the action in this film. I am so sick of hollywood nonsense where people leap off buildings and run through hails of bullets without a scratch.

      Where are you with Damon? I though he did a great job as the deadpan to support the development of Rooster and Mattie… I disagree that his acting was not great. In many ways, his role made the film I thought…

      • It was great. Nice to see cinema that isn’t enhanced by big leaps and C.G.I.. A totall refreshment.

        I thought Damon was good too. Anyone else in the role wouldn’t of worked IMHO. He was spot on.

  22. Well, all i can say is that i’m glad Vic enjoyed it, but if the trailer is anything to go by i am not going to like anything about it. I expected Damon to be lousy, but i’m surprised at how much i dislike Bridges’ performance. The kid seems okay and the Cash song is cool, but i fear this will be yet another Coen Bros movie that will have me wondering why i bothered.

    • As a huge Coen brothers fan I can tell you it’s not your typical Coen film.
      Everyone they cast was great in their roles to the T. I would say if anything see cause of the beautiful cinematography. In the world of C.G.I. it is a refreshment.

      • Who knows, maybe i’ll get a pleasant surprise as i did with O Brother Where Art Thou, the movie that makes me watch most of their new stuff in case they get it right again.

    • But you have not seen it yet? Geesh. People should watch movies before they lampoon them.. lol

      By the way, True Grit is a great movie.

      • “if the trailer is anything to go by”

  23. Oh man what a great movie… simply excellent. I agree with Vics review but I thought Damons performance was actually quite good considering what he was given to work with. I would have liked to see a bit more action while it was realistic… i wish it was a bit more… brutal and bloody. Call me a guy but the Wild West was a violent and crazy time. I understand the pg13 rating to get more ppl to come see it but it seems it takes away from what the movie could have been. Just my two cents :) overall a great film

  24. Oh i forgot to mention, it being a coen brothers film i was surprised that the violence was toned down… compared to fargo and no country this movie is tameee

  25. I’m not surprised the Coens would make an excellent western. All their movies have an old timey feel to them even when they are set in the present.

    The original movie was good but you were always sort of aware it was a John Wayne movie. He was just too big a star. Perhaps here you can just forget the actors and get immersed in the characters and story.

    I’m actually happy the violence isn’t too graphic. I’ve really gotten tired that. It’s more shocking when it’s used sparingly. Same for graphic sex.

  26. I really enjoyed this movie. I have read the book recently and the Cohens absolutely nailed it. Everything from Matties wit and sass to Rossters drunken rambilings. And I really thought Matt Damon was great in a role that is really against type for him in size and character.

  27. This is one of the movies I am really loooking forward to going to see. Glad to hear that it’s a good film. I really enjoyed 3:10 to Yuma, so I think I will like this.

    I know I am going to get sh*t for this from DrSam, but I am glad that they’re remaking some of these old westerns. I was never a huge fan of the genre, and back in the 50′s and 60′s it was TOTALLY overdone, much like comic movies are today. When an old western is remade, and remade well, it makes me want to watch the original.

  28. I really enjoyed this movie overall. I especially enjoyed Mattie’s character as a child. She was precocious, but focused. However, as an adult at the end, she was the jerk, not the man who didn’t stand in a lady’s presence, in my opinion. She did not rise above her circumstnnces, so to speak. Yes, she achieved her goal but apparently lived a lonely, bitter life. She avenged her father’s death, but it seems she never grew emotionally after that.

    • She had a line at the first of the movie about people paying for what they do; nothing in life is free. Her arm and her old maid was the by-product of her mission of revenge. It’s reflective that she had to pay for her sin as well.

  29. I may be biased when I review True Grit, I am a huge fan of the original. I was very disappointed in the 2010 movie overall. I got tired of hearing Bridges fake, gravelly voice and the Mattie character looked too young for the role. Her pigtails made her look very young for the dialog she was delivering. Damons character seemed goofy and not very convincing of a supposedly tough Texas lawman. Brolins character “Chaney”, seemed so dim witted I was surprised he could talk. Brigdes did do a decent job at acting the role of Rooster Cogburn and Barry Pepper was great as Lucky Ned Pepper. I did not read the book, so maybe they are all right on the money. If so, the book cannot be very entertaining. Save your money and rent the original, you’ll enjoy the characters, music, & flow of the movie more.

    • I’m 49 and recently watched the original for the first time in probably 20 years.

      I prefer the new version.

      Vic

    • @ traybill: One of the reasons I didn’t like the 1969 version was Kim Darby’s take on Mattie Ross. She is supposed to be a fourteen year old girl and Darby was 22 when she played her. She was just too old for the role.

      As was John Wayne. I felt his Oscar was what I like to call the Scorcese Oscar. You know: ‘Thank you for 40-odds years of work. Sorry we didn’t give this to you for a movie you were great in.’

      Glen Campbell was too much of a ham. What an odd piece of casting if I’ve ever seen one. A country singer opposite John Wayne?

      I felt zero chemistry between Wayne and Darby as well. When Cogburn does what he does at the end of the movie, I thought it very out of character from what I’d seen from him for an hour and a half. He didn’t seem to form the connection that she did.

    • I don’t know if you understand what irony means, but I think you should to enjoy this movie.
      I thought it was the point of Mattie was that she’s so young, but so tough. If she spoke like some little 14 year old girl and looked like a little 14 year old girl, there would be nothing interesting about her. She would just be a little 14 year old girl.
      Also, Damon’s character was a Texas Ranger. Why does that make him a tough lawman? The whole goofiness and his buffoonish pride of his station are what makes him funny.

    • read your review and I know you are right