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True Grit 2010 movie review

I finally saw Academy Award Best Picture contender True Grit, directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.  One can’t help but compare this new version of True Grit with the original film, and I don’t think there is much of an argument that the 2010 version is a better film than the 1969 adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, but I have to wonder why the Coen brothers decided to make this movie in the first place.  (I would guess the Golden Globes had similar questions; I don’t think it earned a single nomination in any category.)

I don’t have much to say about this movie – again, if you saw the original, it’s an experience one can only have while watching a remake.  Sure, it’s not shot for shot like that new version of Psycho, but it was still strange.  This time around, we get Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, and while I love me some John Wayne, it’s not hard to see that Bridges is the superior actor – and that’s pretty much the theme throughout the entire movie; it’s pretty much the same movie as last time around, but the acting is better, the editing and directing is done with more care, the film is grittier.  (That’s right, I went there.  Delicious pun.)  Hailee Steinfeld is better than Kim Darby as Mattie Ross; Matt Damon is infinitely better than Glen Campbell (who straight up can’t act) as La Boeuf… exchange Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper for Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper (well, not exactly – Jeff Corey played Tom Chaney in the original rather than Josh Brolin…  but I’m going with an exchange of star power here, not direct roles) and yes, the new cast outshines the old with their performances.

True Grit 2010 is worth seeing if you don’t know the story or haven’t see the original – no, it’s probably still worth seeing.  The only reason to see True Grit 1969 is the lush landscapes and ancient film stock – movies just don’t look like that anymore!  Now I haven’t seen the original or read the book in over fifteen years, and I’m the sort of person who watches/reads the same thing over and over, and yet, I don’t think there is much in the way of an unsure moment in the entire movie.  It’s an old fashioned story, so you know the bad guys are going to lose and the good guys will live, and neither version ever supplies a moment where you think otherwise.  It’s not a bad story, it’s just a safe one; True Grit is an old fashioned western, no more, no less.  The 2010 ensemble does a great job, but unless you love the western genre, I wouldn’t exactly call it a must see.  (It is great to see Barry Pepper in a movie, though.)  If it’s still playing in theaters and you have to get your Oscar on, well, go ahead, I guess.  Otherwise, I’d wait for DVD.

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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