True Grit is the screen adaptation of the great American novel of the same name. First published in 1968 and written by Charles Portis. The story is narrated by a woman named Mattie Ross who tells a tale from her past. Seeking vengeance for the murder of her father, she hires a U.S Marshall Rooster Cogburn to hunt down the killer. Accompanied by a Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, Their journey exposes them to the wilds of the country and each other.
John Wayne starred in the first screen adaptation of the True Grit, released in 1969. He went on to win an Academy Award for his performance of Marshall Rooster Cogburn and is noted as one of his biggest roles. But it is fair to say that Wayne's Cogburn was different from the character portrayed in the book. For instance, he wore a hairpiece and a corset. Very much a Hollywood version of the brutal man that Charles Portis created.
Well, you guessed it, the Rooster Cogburn we see in the 2010 version of True Grit is much closer to the man in the book. This character is so authentic, you can almost smell him through the screen. Seems like he is soaked in booze, a saddle sore grizzly of a man broken by the years. In fact, almost every character is filthy with rotten teeth creating a brutally realistic feel.
Now as a fan of the Coen Brothers, I was extremely excited to see this movie. They are without a doubt, one of the best movie makers of our generation. But there is a catch, many of their films are incredibly violent with unsettling dark humor woven through the scenes. No Country for Old Men is a great example of this. Surprisingly though their version of True Grit is much more accessible to the audience. The story is the focus, executed in a classic nostalgic way with just the right blend of violence.
Another thing that stands out in any Coen Brothers film, is their capacity to generate amazing performances from the cast. True Grit exceeds expectation in this part. Jeff Bridges who had worked with the brothers in The Big Lebowski takes on the role played by John Wayne – Rooster Cogburn. The collaboration between the brothers and Bridges results in possibly one of the best performances you will ever see.
All of the supporting cast is outstanding, Josh Brolin plays Tom Chaney the killer of Mattie Ross's Father. Hailee Steinfeld gives a powerful performance as Mattie and narrates the story beautifully. But, for me, the big surprise comes from Matt Damon who gives the performance of his career playing the unlickable Texas Ranger. You guessed it, I am no fan of Matt Damon, I wish he would work with the Coen brothers more because he is great in True Grit.
The was well received by critics going onto be nominated for ten Oscars and many other awards. However, generally, the film came away with a handful of awards and for me, it was a travesty that Jeff Bridges did not get Best Actor.
To conclude, if you are a fan of westerns the 2010 release of True Grit is essential viewing. This is a truly nostalgic depiction of the genre with brutal authenticity. The Coen Brothers capture the vastness of the scenery with amazing cinematography and the whole thing is complimented with a haunting sound score. A true cinematic classic that gets better each time you watch it.