True Grit is based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel of the same name, and was made into a film the following year, featuring the only Oscar winning performance by John Wayne. I have not read the novel, and I have only seen the original adaptation in parts. This is the second remake by the Coens that I am aware of, and it is far more successful in that venture than The Ladykillers. This is a great movie, from the writing, story structure, and excellent performances.
In addition, I also enjoyed it much more than their 2007 “Neo-Western” No Country for Old Men. Here the Coens made an extremely reverent take on the Western genre, an unironic love letter to a genre mostly departed from our cineplexes. I love Westerns, and this is the best one I have seen since the 2007 3:10 to Yuma remake. It respects the genre’s conventions while not being restrained by them.
However, I recognize that the two strengths of this film are really the writing and the performances. Like any Coen Brothers film, this film is filled with excellent dialogue. I have always thought that their dialogue harkens back to the 1930s and 40s films, particularly the romantic/screwball comedies and detective films of that era.
Of course the films that I have seen from that era are all classics, and always have amazing actors in the lead roles, whether it be Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, etc. True Grit is no exception to that. Jeff Bridges gives a great performance, and isn’t leaning as heavy on The Dude as he seems to have been lately. Hailee Steinfeld is rightly being praised all over for her performance as well, but the one that floored me here was Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger Le Bouef. He completely sells the character, injuries and all.
Taking the writing and the spot on performances together, I would enjoy this movie even if it had been a radio drama. Just listening to the way these characters speak is complete joy, let alone adding the lush backdrops and interesting Texas scenery.
Overall, I can’t recommend this movie more, as it is one of my favorite films of the year, and I feel it will appeal to genre fans and non-fans alike.