There is always a stigma when Hollywood remakes a classic movie. The comparison between the original, which is always far superior, compared to the new one is often cruel, with talks about the originality of Hollywood sure to ensue. Well, not here, and not with the remake of the John Wayne movie True Grit. This movie stands on its own, and is a surprise, considering Hollywood's history, or even the state of westerns in Hollywood.
True Grit starts with Hailee Steinfeld's Mattie talking about how her honest father was killed by a dishonest criminal, played by Josh Brolin. Mattie seeks justice for the murder of her father, and at 14 years old, knows she must find someone with true grit to go seek the outlaw and get justice. She comes across Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges. Once on the trail, they bump into a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. The three go on the hunt for the convict, and all three discover their true grit.
Every actor had some serious shoes to fill, and even if you don't compare to the original movie starring the greatest western actor ever, you still have a huge weight on the genre of westerns. Let's face it, there haven't been too many good westerns since Tombstone. Fortunately, Bridges steps up to deliver a great performance as an aging Marshall who is as tough as they come. One scene involves Bridges in a courtroom talking about the many men he killed, which was hilarious, but the film does a great job of contrasting it with another scene later on, where the Marshall faces down several men and refuses to back down.
The other surprise is Hailee Steinfeld. I hadn't seen her before, and the strength she delivers in her character, mixed with the sadness of her deceased father is really well portrayed. It's clear we can expect more good things from Ms. Steinfeld. If there is one slightly less powerful performance, however, it comes from Damon's Texas Ranger. While he may have true grit, he comes off more as a bit silly, and more comedic than rugged west toughened. I won't even bring up the accent.
The movie truly felt like it was shot to be a real western, with beautiful landscapes, well shot action scenes that don't have the over abundance of cuts you see in other action movies, and a focus on more of the characters, than anything else. This movie seemed to capture that wild west feeling you get from those classic John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies without all the poor resolution, and as a result, it's a treat to feast your eyes on.
With all that said, if I have to give one gripe, it would be that the movie starts off fairly slow. It's a great way to build up the character of Mattie, who is really the star of the movie, but I was expecting more Jeff Bridges than anything else. While the second act clearly makes up for it, the first takes a bit to get going.
Overall, if you like westerns, you will love this movie. It isn't the light, popcorn friendly blockbuster you got during the summer, this is a cold, tough movie that has true grit (alright, that's the last time I will use that phrase) and will leaving you applauding for everyone involved.