First off, sorry; I actually got to see True Grit at an advance screening last Monday, and would have loved to of had an early review for you all, but my schedule has been really busy. But, to my luck and surprise, on my first day of vacation yesterday, TCM was airing the original 1969 version of True Grit with John Wayne's Oscar winning performance, and I really wanted to see it before I made my final judgment on the Coen Brothers' take on the western novel.
Basically, my main impressions are going to be based off seeing the film cold, without any real knowledge of the original adaptation and without seeing anything but the first trailer (something I wish I did for Tron: Legacy, but that's my next review). I'll make some judgments based on my newfound knowledge but, nothing major. Having said all that, I'm a huge fan of the Coen's films, with my favorite being last years seemingly under the radar, A Serious Man (which I surely would have given a Seal of Approval had I seen it in theaters), and with only 3 of their films still unseen I think I have a pretty good judgment as to what works and what doesn't when it comes to their work.
True Grit works, and its damn good. I'd really love to just leave the review at that but I can't. I, like many others semi-doubted that not only could the Coens not pull off a remake (or new adaptation, your pick) but could they pull off a western? Granted there aren't really any westerns anymore, and if there are they're not original; 3:10 to Yuma, anyone? But if someone was going to do it right, the Coens were the right choice.
While some of the advertising may suggest that Josh Brolin is a major part of the film, or that the story is all about Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, you'd be wrong. The real star is first time actress Hailee Steinfeld, who not only narrates the film but is practically in every scene of the film and its about her life... so as to why people are award her as 'supporting actress' is incredibly baffling to me. But any recognition is good recognition because for a first timer she really carries this film all her own and does a really great job.
As for the rest of the cast, both Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges are great. Bridges (unlike his reprise of Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy) does not play "The Dude" here, and his character is very unlike the gritty but heroic character that John Wayne played in the original. He's ruffer, he's grosser, but he's still great to watch. As for Matt Damon, I doubted he could pull of a southern accent and a mustache, but he proved me wrong. And Josh Brolin, he's good, but he just deserve to have his name on all the posters and ads, he's barely in the film and doesn't even say much, DON'T BE MISLEAD. But really all the acting is superb regardless of misleading ads.
But how does it compare to the Coens other films? Well, I'm generally not really into westerns (Clint Eastwood aside) so I can say that this is one of the few I actually enjoyed (and having seen the original now I much enjoyed that as well). But my favorites of theirs are A Serious Man, No Country for Old Men, O, Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo and The Big Lebowski, amongst others of course, but I'd say True Grit is definitely up there now.
The film just came out yesterday, with the holiday weekend coming up; and I know this review is incredibly informal when compared to my past work, but do yourself a favor, if you see anything before the year ends: SEE THIS MOVIE.
Overall Score: 9.5/10