I like movie Westerns, and I'm a big fan of the Coen brothers, so I've been looking forward to seeing their version of "True Grit." If this reviewer is right, I won't be disappointed.
Among the several pleasures of the Coen brothers' True Grit, at least one—the perfect casting of Jeff Bridges as the cantankerous U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn—was to be expected. Another—a sharp comic turn by Matt Damon as a prissy Texas Ranger—is something of a surprise. And a third—a breakthrough star performance by 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld—is an unexpected revelation.
[. . .]
Like the 1969 True Grit, for which John Wayne, in the role of Rooster Cogburn, won his only Oscar, this new movie is based on an esteemed comic novel by Charles Portis. But the Coens' film isn't really a remake of that earlier picture; it's their characteristically singular take on the book, and more faithful to it (especially in its portrayal of Mattie and her ultimate fate). And the script they've fashioned from Portis' celebrated prose is a delight in itself, rich with contorted Victorian locutions. When Mattie attempts to comfort a wounded man after a gunfight, he tells her, with pained regret, “I am considerably diminished.” When LaBeouf grows weary of Mattie's constant derision, he says, “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements.” And when Mattie, in Rooster's sudden absence, is briefly captured by an outlaw gang, she suffers a rare moment of despair: “He had abandoned me to a congress of louts.”
I like some Westerns because they try to rise above the genre -- Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," for example, and the TV miniseries "Lonesome Dove." But it's also enjoyable to watch the ones that don't want to be anything but a well-made Western, such as "Stagecoach" and all the Randolph Scott-Budd Boeticher collaborations. The John Wayne "True Grit" was the latter, and it sounds like the Coen brothers' version might aim for the former, so the two will be complementary. Cool.