With the opening of 'True Grit' Dec. 22, audiences will finally have the chance to view one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The second adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel -- the first being the 1969 version starring John Wayne in his Oscar-winning role -- tells the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (the unknown Hailee Steinfeld) who hires haggard, drunk Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt down and kill the man (Josh Brolin) who murdered her father. Along the way, they are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), and the three embark on a gritty tale of revenge in the Old West.
Viewers have anxiously been waiting to see directors Joel and Ethan Coen's trademark visual style applied to a classic tale that has entertained generations of audiences. All the elements are in place for high excitement and high expectations. With so many unique talents involved, the film is getting some of the best reviews of the year. Critics are nearly unanimous in their praise of the beautiful cinematography and have been heaping plaudits on the entire cast. The film is shaping up to be a big Oscar contender and to find out why it works so well, read our roundup of critics' 'True Grit' reviews.
New York Magazine: "The Coens' 'True Grit' isn't as momentous an event as you might hope, but once you adjust to its deliberate rhythms (it starts slowly), it's a charming, deadpan Western comedy. It's true that 'charming' is an odd description for a picture with so much death and ghoulish imagery. But the Coens rarely get worked up about such things. Their gaze is steady, serene. Roger Deakins' cinematography is beautifully deep-toned and austere; the compositions are clean even when the settings and characters are muddy. (1969 original director, Henry) Hathaway shot the same old Arizona–New Mexico buttes we know from other John Wayne movies, but this 'True Grit' is where it belongs, in high deserts and forests denuded by winter."
Roger Ebert: "What strikes me is that I'm describing the story and the film as if it were simply, if admirably, a good Western. That's a surprise to me, because this is a film by the Coen Brothers, and this is the first straight genre exercise in their career. It's a loving one. Their craftsmanship is a wonder. Their casting is always inspired and exact. The cinematography by Roger Deakins reminds us of the glory that was, and can still be, the Western. But this isn't a Coen Brothers film in the sense that we usually use those words. It's not eccentric, quirky, wry or flaky. It's as if these two men, who have devised some of the most original films of our time, reached a point where they decided to coast on the sheer pleasure of good old straightforward artistry."
The Seattle Times: "Steinfeld, whose earnest sincerity may remind viewers of a young Judy Garland, acquits herself well in a difficult role. Mattie's rapid-fire conversation, in formal language (she rarely uses contractions), makes her seem eerily self-possessed if occasionally dangerously close to stilted. Bridges, that most natural of actors, gives an entirely different kind of performance: loose and playful, not worrying too much about whether we can understand him (often we can't, but never mind). Together, accompanied by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, they invite us on their quest on a sparse frontier beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins; it's a darkly comedic kick just to overhear them."
'True Grit' showtimes and tickets
More 'True Grit' reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Us Weekly: "Matt Damon delights as a lawman, but it's Steinfeld who stands out. Not since Anna Paquin won an Oscar for 'The Piano' has a girl shown such screen presence."
Variety: "It's hard to imagine bigger boots to fill than the ones that earned John Wayne his Oscar in 'True Grit,' and yet Jeff Bridges handily reinvents the iconic role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers' back-to-the-book remake. Though the sibs return things to the perspective of vengeance-bent 14-year-old Mattie Ross, all eyes are definitely on Cogburn. Rather than a case of the Dude doing the Duke, Bridges' irascible old cuss is a genuine original who feels larger than the familiar saga that contains him. Awfully gritty for its PG-13 rating, this characteristically well-crafted outing could draw a wide range of audiences, ranking among the Coens' more commercial pics."
The Washington Post: "Filmed in the sere sepia tones befitting the 19th-century West, 'True Grit' has the look, feel and sound of that era, its characters speaking in the courtly, declamatory style that can first strike the ear as mannered but soon takes on the cadence of folk poetry. Nowhere does that language reach more musical heights than in an early set piece, when Mattie negotiates to sell back some ponies her father purchased from Gen. Stonehill (Dakin Matthews). The pair's ensuing who's-on-first roundelay playfully establishes the governing ethos of 'True Grit,' in which Old Testament values of retribution and redemption comfortably co-exist with ribbing good fun. More than anything, the scene announces that, although Rooster is the character to whom the title refers, it's his young employer, goad and conscience who will emerge as the movie's most primal and memorable force."