Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

True Grit


This is so rare a thing that I can’t even recall another example. How often does someone remake a great film … and improve on it? I can think of some times where a bad film or an okay film has been improved the second time around, but never a great one. The Coen Brother have managed it. I loved the original True Grit movie. It contains one of the all-time classic scenes from a western—“I call that bold talk from a one-eyed fat man.” {“Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!”}} I had read the book and thought it was reasonably faithful. And while I detest John Wayne the man (the two-fisted action hero who, when it came time to fight for his country, had “other priorities,” like the traitor Dick Cheney), I am a big fan of his better films, and this is his best. (Except maybe for The Searchers. And Red River. And She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. And … okay, so it was one of his dozen best.) So how did they do it? How did they top a classic? By not trying to out-do it with unwanted technology or anything else, and by being even more faithful to the book. This is a straight western, no Coen-esque embellishments. It is beautiful to look at. It is exciting. It feels authentic. I’m sure that in rough places like “Deadwood” people did fill their speech with expletives, but remember, this was 1878, and Queen Victoria was firmly on the throne. Flowery speech was the norm, just read novels from that period. The way these people talk is a delight to listen to, as distinctive in its way as Shakespeare. Jeff Bridges is outrageously good. Hailee Steinfeld really is 14, just like her character Mattie, and she just owns this movie. I can’t find a single thing to complain about, and so much to praise. I will see this movie multiple times in the future.