When the first film stars The Duke, the likelihood of surpassing such an iconic character in a remake seems more than slim. Yet, Jeff Bridges demonstrates again why he’s considered such a fantastic modern actor. Along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and fresh-faced Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit offers a classic story with a contemporary twist.
True Grit, like the original, is about a quick-witted girl, Mattie (Steinfeld), eager to track down Tom Chaney (Brolin), the man that murdered her father. Intent on having the best, she locates the meanest marshal in the west, ‘Rooster’ Cogburn (Bridges). A Texas Ranger by the name of LaBoeuf (Damon) joins the two in an effort to track down Chaney, proving to act as the water to Cogburn’s oil.
Written and directed by the Coen brothers, the film proves to be a remarkably good western. Shot on location in Texas and New Mexico, the setting sets the tone of the film in the deserted and rough badlands of the old frontier. Unlike No Country for Old Men, where the Coen brothers splashed violence across the screen from start to finish, True Grit moved away from the straight bloodshed and kept it classic. The gunfights were not riddled with gratuitous blood nor were the death scenes over the top and elaborate. Instead, the characters’ stories embodied the struggle of the old west.
Furthermore, the Coen brothers wrote a script that allowed the actors to shine in each role. Bridges slow drawl and drunken rants, mixed with his quintessential garb, made his character alive and true to the American west. He does not have the stature or the brawny presence of Wayne, but he plays someone that truly grew up in the dirt and squalor of all great cowboys. Damon’s straightforward, no-nonsense approach and constant bickering with Cogburn gave the audience a reprieve from the heavier topics of the film.
It was Steinfeld, though, that completely stole the show. Unlike the typical Hollywood starlet, Steinfeld came across as the no-nonsense young girl that meant business. One of the funniest moments was watching Mattie argue with a trader she felt was trying to take advantage of her youth and naivety. Speaking faster than a sprinting horse, she spins his own lawful logic back to a man four times her age and gets precisely what she wants before he even knows he’s made a deal.
True Grit will, no doubt, be one of the hits of the award show season. With Bridges already coming off an Oscar win, he may not receive a nomination despite his brilliant performance. Expect Steinfeld, on the other hand, to collect every nomination available.
Receive the best experience by catching the film in Cinemark XD, with ceiling-to-floor screens and wrap-around sound. Century 20 Oakridge houses a XD auditorium presently screening True Grit.