So I finally watched the 1969 version of True Grit starring John Wayne. Afterwards I couldn’t resist the urge to re-watch the 2010 version. This is sort of a comparison of the two and there are spoilers. You’ve be forewarned.
So I really enjoyed the 1969 version. It is a really nice western. I thought the story was well written and everything panned out pretty good. I also though John Wayne was pretty fucking good as Cogburn.
The 2010 remake was really good as well. Again the story was well down and it is a lovely western, especially for our time period. As stand alone films both are excellent and worth watching.
So to compare the two. TheCoenBrothers automatically get a nice bump up for the score. I honestly don’t remember the score from either film that well, but I remember the use of it in the 2010 version. THe score did a wonderful job at highlighting some great moments in the film and I just don’t remember that at all in the ’69 version.
The cinematography is gorgeous in the 2010 version as well. Everything just looked beautiful. It was also nice to see some accurate landscaping, but that’s really nitpicking. Same with getting night shots. Still the 2010 film visually is far superior to me, but I suppose some of that has to do with our technology now, but not much. There are some beautiful films that are quite old.
Now to the cast and I’ll just get the John Wayne vs Jeff Bridges thing over with. I prefer Jeff Bridges. I’m biased, because I’ve grown up with Bridges work and love that man. John Wayne is someone I’m not that familiar with. I’ve seen some of his films and like him, but I’m not a die-hard fan of him. Both actors are great here though and put in probably some of their finest performances. I think both actors probably deserved their Oscar nominations and of course a lot of that has to do with the character. It’s a great character and both versions were written well. That and Bridges had Wayne’s performance to be able to draw from which is kinda why I like him more. You can see where he picked up some stuff from Wayne, but he did a wonderful job adding in his own bits (that or the Coens wrote some of it in).
The supporting cast was better in the new film as well to me. Matt Damon easily beats out Glen Campbell as LeBoeuf. Unfortunately I didn’t like how LeBoeuf was written out in his version. They didn’t really give Damon a lot to work with. Still, he had the better performance.
Robert Duvall was ok as Ned Pepper. Barry Pepper (yes that is his last name ironically enough) was pretty good as Pepper as well. Both had their moments, but neither was really any better than the other. It would have been nice to meld their performances actually.
The 1969 version had a great performance by Dennis Hopper. It’s small, but he did a great job.
I suppose the only thing left is to look at the writing in the story and overall structure. Apparently the Coen brothers choose to follow the book more. I’ve never read the book and have no real idea. What I’ve gathered whoever is that they did follow the book more and did a good job of it. Who knows. Of course the Coen’s add their trademark dark humor in little corners of the film which is a plus.
Both movies had their ups and downs. I disliked how little character development there was in the Coen brothers version. You get little snippets about Cogburn from Bridges, but it’s hard to hear for one, because he mumbles and they are walking and doing other stuff. That and it’s divided up and kinda randomly thrown in. The ’69 version has a lovely section towards the beginning of the film where Cogburn is sitting with Chen Lee playing cards and whatnot. You get a better feel of Cogburn and Mattie in those early scenes. Same with LeBoeuf. I also liked how LeBoeuf stays with Cogburn and Mattie in the ’69 version. I thought Damon got screwed when they had him run off. I guess the trade was that he gets to live which was a better choice. One of the big differences is having Mattie narrate the film. Definitely a bonus and works really well.
I can’t decide which ending I like better. Both work for their version of the film though. The Coen’s was darker and the ending fit.
In the end I still like the Coen brothers version more, but the original is still a good film and worth seeing. I suppose older audiences or more die-hard western fans will enjoy the ’69 version more, but for younger audiences or those who like a bit more grit in their films, will probably enjoy the 2010 version. I advise seeing both and owning at least one of them.