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true_grit_ver4TRUE GRIT
Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin

Rooster Cogburn: I’m a foolish man who has been dragged into a goose chase by a girl in trousers and a nincompoop.

To have grit, one should have an indomitable spirit. For that grit to be true, one would need to subscribe to the theory that grit can achieve some sort of altruistic state of constant existence but that’s just not how grit goes, far as I see it. From where I’m standing, grit is something that, for those fortunate enough to have it inside, shows itself when life requires it, in those situations when you suddenly find yourself needing to get through something you can’t imagine getting through. In TRUE GRIT, directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen exhibit a whole whack of grit getting through their first “remake” but I’m not convinced they ever reached any real truth along their journey.

TRUE GRIT is said to be an adaptation of the Charles Portis novel and not the 1969 Henry Hathaway film, that starred John Wayne and won him an Academy Award for his performance as Rooster Cogburn. The role has now been appropriated by another Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges, and, while I cannot comment on how the performances differ having not seen the original film, I can say that Bridges definitely lays down the law as a dirty boozer of a U.S. Marshall who has agreed to help one feisty, young lady (Hailee Steinfeld) find the man who killed her father, so that she can have him brought to justice. Matt Damon plays a bounty hunter who is also looking for the same man and so the three reluctantly embark on their mission. This is a western though so the pace of this mission is much more trot than gallop, leaving a lot of time to talk about the weather. The performances drive the film but not fast enough to have kept my interest in achieving the goal.


The Coen Brothers are indisputably two of the most talented contemporary film directors around and this is abundantly evident in TRUE GRIT. They take their craft very seriously and have clearly done their homework here. That said, the aimless nature of the western genre might have been too much for them as it seems to have exacerbated their philosophical tendencies to the point of meandering ramblings. The film can be gorgeous, thrilling and engaging but it took a little grit of my own to get through the leaner parts.

Joel and Ethan Coen: Tall Tales, a retrospective screening series, continues at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, throughout December. Visit for more details. And don’t miss our all new feature, My 5 Favourite Coen Brothers Films!


  1. I’ve come across several reviews that struggle to decide whether or not it is an adaptation or a remake. In my mind it is an adaptation, because it sticks much closer to the book than the original film.

  2. I believe this is what the Coens believe the film to be as well, an adaptation and not a remake.

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