Plot: What’s it about?
Re-making a movie, especially one like “True Grit”, is a tricky thing to do. In one sense there’s no original screenplay to worry about because the material has already been written, shot and produced. In this case, we know that the legendary John Wayne won his first (and only) Oscar for portraying Rooster Cogburn back in 1968. Flash forward just a tad bit over four decades and we’ve got Academy Award winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen remaking a veritable classic. The Coen brothers won an Oscar for Best Director(s) a few years back with Best Picture “No Country for Old Men” and they nabbed the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar as well (it was adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy). I mention this because I want to show the caliber of talent involved with this remake. Couple that with the cast: Jeff Bridges (fresh off his Best Actor win for “Crazy Heart”), Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. And while some are staunchly opposed to a remake, sometimes it’s a good thing as was the case with “Ocean’s Eleven” a decade ago. Saddle up, and let’s see how this remake fared.
“True Grit” is a story of revenge. And really nothing more. However it’s layered and those layers are what make the film work. We meet Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who’s on a mission to find and kill the man who killed her father. The thing is that Mattie is only 14 years old and she needs someone with some experience (or “grit” as she calls it). After a little detective work, she finally comes across Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a man who’ll be able to track and kill Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) – the man who killed Mattie’s father. The thing is that Rooster is somewhat of a, well, pig. He’s overweight, drinks too much and is generally a rebel. This wouldn’t be a problem, but Mattie is hell bent on accompanying Rooster to see the deed is done right. Couple this with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) along for the ride and a simple task isn’t so simple anymore. Will Mattie see justice done for her father or will the trek alone be enough to end the journey?
Despite being a remake, “True Grit” delivered on pretty much all levels. The acting is top notch, the script a bit more finely tuned and the story is as intriguing as ever. The real standout of the film is 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld who shows she’s got talent that exceeds her years. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (and lost to Melissa Leo for “The Fighter”) and Jeff Bridges was nominated for a second consecutive Best Actor Oscar (he lost to Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech”). And though not nominated both Josh Brolin and Matt Damon deliver strong performances. Westerns aren’t a dime a dozen like they were years ago and I commend the Coen brothers for resurrecting this movie. While purists might argue that there was no reason to remake the film, I’m glad that a new generation can experience this story. I’m also curious to see if they do a remake of the original sequel: “Rooster Cogburn.” Time, as always, will tell.
Video: How does it look?
Don’t let the name fool you – “True Grit” doesn’t embody the title in the way it’s presented via the 2.40:1 AVC HD image. This is a Western and, by and large, earthy tones will prevail. Yes, there’s a lot of brown in this movie and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Clarity is amazing, just look at Rooster’s beard, Mattie’s pigtails or the texture in the ground. The movie takes place in the Midwest and we get to see some pretty scenic landscapes throughout. Fort Smith, Arkansas was also re-created for the film and the attention to detail is second to none. This is one fine-looking transfer and indicative of what a new to Blu-ray movie should look like.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack more than serves its purpose. Dialogue is at the heart of the movie and it’s never compromised for a minute. As you might expect, we do get our fair share of gunshots, horses galloping and even the flowing waters of a creek. While this isn’t as purposely loud as it could be, it’s indicative of the Coen Brothers’ movies, who tend to use sound somewhat sparingly. It’s a nice, solid mix that shouldn’t disappoint anyone.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The movie was one of the most critically-acclaimed of 2010, it’s the highest-grossing movie that the Coen Brothers have made and won award after award. Loosely translated, Paramount wisely loaded this disc with supplements. Let’s get started on what to expect. First up is “Mattie’s True Grit” which interviews this phenomenal 14 year old actress. Looking much better in person than in the film, we follow her through the audition process and get some comments from her on this film and her role. Clearly she’s got a future in film and it shows here. “From Bustles to Bucksin” is a costume design featurette that focuses on Mary Zophres, the person in charge of the costumes for the film. “Colts, Winchesters & Remingtons” is a fairly straight-forward feature with Keith Walters, who was in charge of the guns for the film. “Re-Creating Fort Smith” shows the great lengths the filmmakers went through to get this Northwestern Arkansas town to look the way it did at the turn of the 20th century. We get an interesting feature on the author of “True Grit”, Charles Portis and somewhat follow his career moving from newspaperman to an author. Lastly we get a look at the cast as well as the original theatrical trailer. The second disc is a DVD of the film as well as a digital copy for your portable device.