When word trickled down from on high that the Coen Brothers were remaking True Grit, many people seemed personally offended by the news. “How can Jeff Bridges possibly measure up to John Wayne?” etc, they shouted through their keyboards.
So how does the new compare to the old?
No contest. New version wins.
When I watched the 1969 version, I wasn’t that impressed. I thought John Wayne played the same character he’s ever played. If he hadn’t been given an Oscar, people wouldn’t think anything of the movie. If he wasn’t in the movie, we would be saying that the Coen Brothers were remaking a mediocre western movie. Yell at me if you want, but it just wasn’t that good of a movie.
The new version is absolutely amazing. Everything about the movie hits it out of the park.
The acting is top notch, by everybody involves. Jeff Bridges plays the character of Rooster Cogburn with surprising nuance. He doesn’t always know what to say, he doesn’t always know what to do, but when it hits the fan, you want him on your side. Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger is constantly seeking approval, and his reasons for teaming up with the main characters are extremely self-centered. These characterizations are visible, but satisfyingly underplayed, much like the way real people are.
If there’s one thing the Coen Brothers know how to do, it’s create atmosphere. The scenes, the costumes and more importantly the dialogue look, feel and sound like the 1880s.
The cinematography is amazing, too. The structure of the shots, the lighting are all amazing. There are a lot of little things they do to evoke emotion and draw you into the movie. For example, the first shot of the movie shows the main characters father lying dead outside of a tavern, barely lit by a lamp on the porch. The snow falling pushes everything else in the picture to the background and puts the focus squarely on the body and the narration.
Seriously, these guys know how to make a movie. I don’t even have any complaints to voice.
On a scale of 1 to 100, I give True Grit a 96 out of 100 and officially declare it to be my favorite movie of the year (so far).
For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.