True Grit – Old and New

Film: True Grit
Release Date: 11th February 2011 (UK)
Director: The Coen Brothers
Rating: 15
Paramount Pictures

Film: True Grit
Release Date: 11th June 1969
Director: Henry Hathaway
Rating: PG
Paramount Pictures

I watched the original and remake within a day of each other so I thought it was best to clump the two together here. True Grit the 1969 classic Western with John Wayne versus the 2011 remake with Jeff Bridges. Which is the best one? Does the remake do the original justice and who plays the better Rooster? Only one way to find out… fight!

The Story

The plot between the two films remains the same. Young teenage girl Mattie wants to avenge her father who was killed by his hired hand Tom Chaney. She recruits a drunk marshal who is said to have true grit, Rooster Cogburn, and a Texas Ranger, Le Boeuf tags along for the bounty. The three journey far to track down Chaney and the gang he is hiding under. The two films keep this plot and little is changed, even most of the scenes remain the same. The main difference is the remake includes a fall out plot as Le Boeuf temporarily leaves the gang after an argument though in the original he sticks around to the end. The original also seems to have more scenes which gives the essence of a camp like journey with a stop at a small town just before the end, while the remake skips all that and focuses on the hunt. The endings are also both different, events are slightly different but one opts for a time skip. Both stories are good and tell a story of a random rag-tag working to find this man, focusing on the relationship between the team. The action doesn’t really come till around half way through but you have the hype leading up to it, and the fights are rather satisfying if brief in both films.


The cast in both films is excellent. You got Rooster played by John Wayne the Jeff Bridges, Mattie played by Kim Darby then Hailee Steinfiled and Le Beouf is played by Glen Campbell and Matt Damon. The characters in the remake remain true to the original, Rooster is a smart talking drunk, Le Beouf is a bit of an idiot and Mattie is a strong-willed girl. There are differences in roles though especially regarding Rooster and Mattie. Rooster in the original is a more animated drunk, smart talking, fast-moving and seems a lot sharper than Jeff Bridges version who talks in his beard and acts in a sloppier manner. The two play different roles on the same character and I can’t choose which I like best! Then with Mattie she has a more naive and child like feel in the original, she treats it more of a camping trip while the remake Mattie is hard-edged with a sharper tongue, which is funny as most of the dialogue is exactly the same in the two films.


Both films are incredibly similar with identical scenes, dialogue and progression minus the odd change but the atmosphere between the two is distinctively different. The original has bright blue skies, a twee soundtrack and green grass. The remake on the other hand has a harsher feeling to it, the skies be grey, the season be winter and the trip doesn’t look too much fun at all compared to the first. I actually like the remakes atmosphere better and it leads to the final act both films share before they branch off to be far more intense and striking. The original was decent but didn’t have quite the desperate and emotional feeling the remake creates. If the remake does one thing better, it is certainly the atmosphere. It manages to be funnier too!


It is hard to claim which is the best, it shows testament to how good the remake is and both are worthwhile watches. I think I prefer the remake due to the atmosphere, new plot points and general presentation of the film but the original set the scenes which the remake doesn’t deviate enough from. It raises question if this remake is necessary as it is so similar to the original with little change but the quality of both is high so it is hard to question it too much. It is an amusing journey packed with laughs and some weird yet oddly likable characters (a chicken man made me burst out laughing in both) and the remake has Jeff Bridges excellent talking into beard performance while the original has a cat. I call it a draw.


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