I’ve never been a fan of John Wayne and I know that Clint Eastwood has been reduced to little more than a raving lunatic in his old age, but I must admit that I’ve become quite a fan of Westerns. A lot of that can be attributed to some of my favorite video games like Fallout (New Vegas in particular, in this case), but my musical tastes have also influenced this (Bob Dylan, primarily). The 2010 remake of True Grit was, to my knowledge, the first Western that I ever sat down and watched (unless you count the quite lame Alamo movie that we all had to watch annually in whatever version of history we were taking at Leonard ISD), and I was absolutely blown away. I’ve never seen the original, nor do I feel that I need to do so. It wouldn’t be the same.
True Grit‘s plot is really secondary to what really makes it a great film: its characters. Jeff Bridges as the drunken but badass Rooster Cogburn knocked me out when I was first exposed to him; his one-liners and ridiculous accent mixed with his ability to take on four bandits at a time make him one of my favorites of all time. Matt Damon as the “staunch, ever faithful” Texas Ranger also mixes impressive marksmanship with ridiculous humor, and I can’t really imagine anyone else taking the part. Barry Pepper’s Lucky Ned deserves mention, as well, as he becomes an almost sentimental favorite right until the buildup to the dramatic conclusion, and Josh Brolin is absolutely detestable as the child-beating, father-killing asshole that he is. But there can be no denying that the true star of the show is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, a deep, precocious character that must procure True Grit from well beyond her age in order to keep up with her comrades. Without Hailee, True Grit would be a standard-fare (though likely still enjoyable) modern Western. But with her, True Grit finds its heart. And that provides it with its greatest strength.