Review: ‘True Grit’ (2010)

Audiences should be so lucky if all remakes were this good (and this isn’t even a remake.)

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is an educated lass of fourteen sent to settle her slain father’s accounts in a small Western frontier town. After verbally making short work of a local businessman to collect a tidy sum of cash, she sets out to hire the toughest bounty hunter she can: Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a man described as having “true grit.” While Cogburn is reluctantly persuaded into taking the contract, he did not count on the determination of Ms. Ross to see her father’s murderer taken to justice by displaying a little grit of her own.

Writer/directors Ethan and Joel Coen are back again, this time with a good film (which means we can only imagine the horror of what they’ll do next). They’ve taken one of their muses, Jeff Bridges, slapped an eye patch on him and written him up with enough Old West attitude to stare down a stampede by himself. Hailee Steinfeld holds her own against him as an under-aged spitfire with vengeance in her heart, leaving only Matt Damon to play straight man LaBoeuf as a big-hearted Texas Ranger who always seems just a little out of his element. With winter setting into a harsh and lawless land, everyone will be tested, but only those with true grit will survive.

Reportedly a remake from the source book and not the 1969 film, True Grit has all the trappings of a great western but carries with it the weight of being originally made famous by John Wayne (as well as co-starring Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Glen Campbell). It also netted Mr. Wayne a long overdue Oscar, but the controversy has always been over if the committee simply handed one over to the man and not truly for the part played (and if you don’t believe the Academy plays favorites year to year, why doesn’t Tom Hanks have seven Oscars yet?) Purely for comparison, the 2010 version does have an edgier feel, but filmmakers can get away with grittier material and subject matter today than did forty years ago.

Josh Brolin (without whom you can’t make a Western these days apparently) does an incredible turn as simpleton Tom Chaney, an murdering outlaw who knows his limitations but who ultimately just makes very poor decisions. Barry Pepper appears briefly as “Lucky” Ned Pepper… very briefly. The editing for this film is also remarkably tight, spending very little time reflecting or traveling so much as moving between scenes of importance. It’s actually kind of nice that Westerns like this only come around rarely. Fortunately, men like Cogburn are fewer and farther between; it’d be bad enough if he was coming after you for something, but heaven help you if you pissed him off.

(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. Not a remake? Please. You obviously never saw the original. Hell, the words are almost exactly the same throughout! Anyone who doesn’t think this is a remake doesn’t have a clue about the original movie with John Wayne.


  2. You do know there’s a book, right? The same one both movies are drawn from, the book by Charles Portis? As I pointed out in my review, there were some issues addressed in the book that the 1969 film couldn’t address in that day in age on the big screen.

    It’s wonderful that you’re a John Wayne fan, but I was reviewing the new film on its own merits and not as a comparison. Perhaps you should, too, eh?


  3. Sorry but I agree with John . It was a remake . Very little difference. The producers can say that it’s based on the book but the producers of the original one can say that too . Yes the endings are different and that is probably where Hollywood took the biggest turn but in all honest I preferred the old versions saccharine ending . Don’t get me wrong I like them both but they are very similar


  4. This movie has the exact same characters, story line and 90%+ of the same lines of the original. If this isn’t a “remake” I don’t know what is!

    This movie – at best – is a mediocre copy of the original. The Coen brothers replace a character of True Grit with a boozing loser who quits before the job’s done. What a slap in the face to the tough man get-er-done-no-matter-what style of true westerns.

    Characters are trying to be like the originals instead of being authentic. Lines are repeatedly spoken automatically like a child’s rendition of a play.

    Several key character defining lines are left out and replaced with lines making the character a watered down lesser character than the original.

    The Coen brothers seem to think that making details the opposite of the original – like putting Rooster’s eye patch on the other eye – is originality – but it’s not.

    See the original then immediately go out and see this movie – as I did – and you’ll see the difference between real characters and copycat characters.


  5. This movie is superior to the original. Sorry to hurt your feelings John Wayne fanboys. But the Coen Brothers did a spectacular job, as did Jeff Bridges and (even more so) Hailee Steinfeld. You are rivited to your seat throughout and can’t take your eyes off the screen.


  6. God, you guys are dumb. The reason that the lines are the same and the characters are the same is because BOTH MOVIES USED THE LINES FROM THE BOOK, WHICH PREDATED BOTH MOVIES. You complain about Cogburn quitting early and the ending (different from the 1969 version), but the 2010 movie gets both of these things directly from the book. Do you know why they had to change the ending of the 1969 movie to make it more “saccharine”? Because it was in John Wayne’s contract that his character could never die in a movie.

    Also, the Rooster Cogburn character in the 2010 version is based on THE BOOK CHARACTER. The only reason the character was CHANGED for John Wayne is because he wanted his character to be the hero, and so did the studio, because that’s the character that John Wayne always played. But in the book, the hero is not really Cogburn- it is Mattie.

    Have you even read the book? I have, and I’m a fan of both the 1969 movie and the 2010 movie. The 2010 movie is NOT a remake of the 1969 movie- it’s another adaptation from the same source material, and the 2010 movie is the one that is actually true to its source material.

    Please get a clue, read a book, and stop embarrassing yourselves, John, Michael, and Diane.


  7. The Alamo was before True Grit, but The Cowboys and The Shootist were after it. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t get that in writing and have to be talked out of it (after all, if you agree to play Davy Crockett at The Alamo, you’re not exactly walking away.)


  8. If it’s not a remake of the original movie, then why does Rooster Cogburn wear an eye patch? QED. Okay guys, come on. It’s closer to the original source material, yes. It’s still perfectly valid to compare it to the first movie, even if it’s not “technically” a remake. I personally liked them both a lot, but I have to say the 2010 movie was probably better.


  9. semantics, scemantics, remake, no-remake, re-boot, original source material, whatever. Can’t we all just get alone. I saw the original when I was about eight years old, so I only really remember the “fill your hands, you s.o.b” bit. I’m looking forward to seeing them both.

    as for the whole remake/ no-remake issue regardless of whether it goes back to the original source or ‘takes inspiration’ from the first film adaptation it is still technically a remake, (the first version being a ‘remake’ of the book and any subsequent versions being remakes of both). OR your definition of remake may consists only of one media copying itself, book copied from book, film copied from film, video game from video game etc, two loaves of bread from the same recipe.

    The remake of Planet of the Apes went back to the original source material, (didn’t particularly help) as did Will Smith’s ‘I Am Legend’ which is a remake of Steve McQueen’s ‘Omega Man’ which is a remake of Vincent Price’s ‘Last Man on Earth’, all based on the novel ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson (Harrison Ford’s ex father in-law)

    Johnny Depp’s ‘Charlie & the Chocolate Factory is considered an inferior remake of Jean Wilder’s ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’, but supposedly went back to Dahl’s original source.

    (also, did you know that there was a sequel “Rooster Cogburn & the Lady -1975”? I haven’t seen it either)


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