Despite having all the makings of a modern classic and, indeed, promotion from every corner of the film industry: critical, commercial or otherwise, the Coens’ True Grit feels strangely under-wrought. It is a competent re-imagining of the 1969 John Wayne vehicle of the same name (an extremely well-regarded Western in its own right) but little more, visibly struggling to add moral gravity to a well-worn narrative trajectory which engages superficially but rarely on a transcendent plane as, say, 2009’s A Serious Man. Josh Brolin is outstanding as the enigmatic villain Tom Chaney, while Jeff Bridges gives exactly the performance you’re expecting him to give, sparring with an unprecedentedly bombastic Matt Damon for the custom and affinity of Hailee Steinfeld, one of the least irritating child actors you’ll see this year. It is engaging and occasionally exhilarating, but lacks the nuance and profundity of the Coens’ finest work.
Words: Oisin Murphy