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True Grit


Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson, Dakin Matthews, Paul Rae

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen

The John Wayne version of 1969 was perhaps the last of the 'prettily' photographed westerns, notable for its colour work and painterly feel. This remake is a much starker affair, although it does also have a palette of its own. The early scenes and all interiors are shot in shades of brown, and the wintry scenes in blue and white. The story itself adheres more closely to the Charles Portis book on which both films are based - not necessarily a good thing, as it robs the tale of some of its invigorating adrenalin rush.

While the end product remains a good, solid yarn, the Coens do substitute western realism for some cinematic basics. Slow to start, but gathering pace as it progresses, the narrative basically follows the structure of the original. Mattie Ross (the charm-free Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl from Yell County, Arkansas, is determined to avenge her father's death at the hands of disreputable Tom Cheney (Brolin, hardly in the story, despite star billing).

Steinfeld, who actually was 14 while filming, tends to babble her words at the beginning, but mellows as the film goes on, if never quite having the inner steel that the admittedly much older Kim Darby brought to the part. Bridges is OK as the one-eyed marshal she hires for 50 dollars to lead the hunt for Cheney, though never as iconic as Wayne, but Damon is a definite improvement on Glen Campbell. Everyone, however, is hampered by 'period' dialogue (did not for didn't etc), which sounds stilted when spoken and inhibits performance. Good action scenes, though not many of them, and a little too much wandering through snowy landscapes.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Paramount . Colour by deluxe.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 10 Feb 2011