True Grit

Rated 4.0

And so Charles Portis’ novel, about a 14-year-old girl in 1880ish Arkansas who hires an old, fat, drunk, half-blind marshal to help her track down her father’s killer, becomes a film again. Today any movie Western will seem like a nostalgic genre exercise, especially an ostensible remake of one that already reeked of anachronism when it was Oscar bait for John Wayne in the late 1960s. But writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen have gotten away with nostalgic genre exercises before, usually by checking sentimentalism with a coolly ironic sort of anthropology, as they do here. It’s safe to assume that the Coens enjoyed Portis’ mordant humor and consciously weird locutions, and so did their actors—newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the girl; Jeff Bridges as the marshal; Josh Brolin, briefly, as the killer; and Matt Damon as a tag-along Texas ranger. Also, Roger Deakins’ handsome cinematography supplies the essential atmospherics of wintry moods and landscapes.