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True Grit (1969)


DAKOTAWOMEN

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I was 24 and in college. I began hearing that John Wayne might have finally found a role that would get him an Oscar and had to go. Truthfully, I thought he was better in Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers but wanted to see him win. The best part of the movie was the Elmer Bernstein score. I watch it on occassion and like it.

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I was living in San francisco when it opened. I was 28 at the time and the theater was pretty well packed. When he said "Fill you hand ...." the place erupted in foot stamping cheering and whistleing.. Any word on the Blu Ray that just came out?

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Dec 20, 2010 8:14 PM

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I was growing up in Las Vegas when *True Grit* hit town. I was 12 and a big John Wayne fan. When he won the Oscar the following spring, I was thrilled.

 

He had three roles at least that he should have won for (in my opinion) so I was very happy to see him finally win.

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I think this is just a sneaky way to find out how old we all are. ;)

 

Anyway, I saw it when I was 15, at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Of course, I knew who John Wayne was, but I was a huge fan of Glen Campbell, who was very popular at the time. Shortly afterwards, I bought the soundtrack album (my first soundtrack, which I still have). I'd never heard of Elmer Bernstein, so that was my introduction to his work.

 

I also recognized Alfred Ryder (from a Star Trek episode) and Jeff Corey and John Doucette (from episodes of The Adventures of Superman).

 

The way the Music Hall was set up, you would enter any time of the day and pick up the show while it was going on, whether it be the film, the Rockettes, the organist, etc. I remember we came in during the scene where Wayne and Campbell are crossing the river on the raft/boat, and Darby is riding her horse across stream. So then we got to the end, watched all the other acts, and then stayed to watch the beginning of the movie. I always thought this was a weird way to watch films, and to this day, I don't like walking into a few even 15 seconds late.

 

I was very happy when Wayne won the Oscar; I was watching the telecast but had to go to bed early, so I didn't find out until the next day, when my chemistry teacher said something like "I was glad to see my buddy John Wayne win the Oscar."

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I'm also looking forward to the new version with Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin.

 

It looks really good.

 

Hard to believe that in the original, director Henry Hathaway wanted George C. Scott for the role of Cogburn, not Wayne.

 

Edited by: lzcutter for additions

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John Wayne tried to get the rights to the book before it was published, but Hal Wallis beat him to it. Marguerite Roberts who did the screen play was blacklisted in the 1950's by HUAAC and many though Wayne would balk at a black listed writer doing the screenplay, but Wayne said he though it was one of the best he ever read .....WOW George C. Scott, maybe he was tied up with "Patton", thank God....

Any word on the new version?

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Dec 21, 2010 2:16 AM

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If I may answer my own question, the reviews for "True Grit" have been outstanding. For the actors, script, direction and the look of the film. Thumbs up from all that I've read so far.....

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Dec 23, 2010 3:17 AM

 

Edited by: fredbaetz on Dec 23, 2010 3:18 AM

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Thanks to TCM for showing the original the week the remake came out. In 1969 this film was my first "drive in" date movie and I actually paid more attention to the "date" than I did the movie. It was nice seeing it again and recalling where and whom I was with at the time of it's release.

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I saw the Coen Brothers' version of True Grit yesterday afternoon. And I must say I was very impressed.

 

But before I get into the new movie let me first say this:

 

Even though I believe the 1969 film is flawed, I still have thoroughly enjoyed the John Wayne vehicle over the years. I believe that John Wayne deserved his Oscar and felt the film was a better than average film, even with some of its flaws.

 

Having said what I just said of the JW film, this new film is so much better in many ways. The story is tighter and the characters are dead on. For one thing the three main leads Bridges, Damon and Steinfeld are excellent. This film tells the story from Mattie's point of view. It is her voice as an adult who narrates the story throughout. I do not want to give away too much, but the way they have constructed the film leaves me to believe that in many ways this film is very close to being a remake as possible. It is not a new film but rather a different take on the older film.

 

Although director Ethan Coen said before filming was to start that this new film would be closer to the original book than to the 1969 film. Having never read the book, I can only make comparisons between the new film and the 1969 film. Both have their merits. The biggest difference I think is where this movie was filmed. The landscape is a lot different than what was in the 1969 film. The production values are so much better in this newer film as well. And the story is tighter.

 

Many of the scenes in the 1969 film were refilmed here as little more than background narration. The opening scene for the new film is background narration on how Mattie's father was murdered. Where as in the 1969 film, the first five minutes or so we are introduced to the Ross family and then we see how Frank Ross is murdered in Fort Smith. The scene in the 1969 film where Rooster tells Mattie about how he was married and had a son was moved to an earlier scene in the new film and was shorter. It did not have the same emotional impact as the 1969 film scene did.

 

There are other scenes as well in the new film that were placed in different areas of the new film rather than just copy and place the older scenes where they existed in the JW film. Some of the older scenes are replaced where as some of the scenes are pretty much handled the same way as the 1969 film.

 

While watching the film I really felt that they were in 1800's Fort Smith, Arkansas. The terrain was flat or close to being flat and the city was quite large for the time period. In the JW film, Fort Smith was filmed in the tiny town of Ridgway, Colorado. In many of the scenes you could see the San Juan mountains in the background.

 

Before filming took place on the JW film, Charles Portis, the novel's writer, objected to making the movie in Colorado and casting John Wayne as the lead. The novel's setting is Arkansas, and Portis told Hathaway that Arkansas looked nothing like Colorado. "Look," Hathaway replied. "In Arkansas nobody's been ten miles from their homes their entire lives. And when they see the picture they'll be happy to know that some part of Arkansas looks like that". As far as Wayne's selection was concerned, Hal Wallis the film's producer told Portis that he was making a film not rewriting a book. The book's character of a big, old, fat mean as nails US deputy marshal could only be played by who he had considered the best actor ever to play in westerns.(1)

 

So with those concerns put aside filming began in the fall of 1968 outside of Montrose, Colorado.

 

The new film was not filmed in Colorado and California as was the 1969 film. Obviously, the terrain in the new film was more like western Arkansas. This film was also made in late fall as well. Most of the trees were deforested and the film has a very grey look to it. Almost as if all of the vegetation is dead. I must say however that between the two films the cinematography was great in both. I will say that I really enjoyed the production values of the new film. It looked very sharp and clear. Very fine period details throughout. Much more so than the 1969 film.

 

Overall, I would say that this new film belongs to Mattie. Rooster is the next character that looms large, then LaBoeuf, then Col. Stonehill played very well by the great character actor Dakin Matthews. Barry Pepper is quite good in the few scenes he has as Lucky Ned Pepper, and for some reason I felt that the casting of Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney left me bewildered. LaBouef speaks about him often as does Mattie, but little is seen of the character until later in the film.

 

The final shootout is really a great scene. Where as in the original, the final shootout appeared to be in a open field with Chimney Rock in the background, this newer scene was in a small valley between high rocky bluffs. Similar but different.

 

I would highly recommend this film to everyone. Even to those of you who despise the Coen Brothers. This film is miles different than anything they have ever done before. Very well done I would give this film 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.

 

(1) information from Randy Roberts and James S. Olson's bio of John Wayne: American

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Rey -

 

I saw *True Grit*. It was a deceptively simple film. Very good, quite understated. I think I want to see it again, for I am sure that there are some things that need to be chewed on and watched again for depth. I liked your review, it was spot on. Few real highs and lows in the film, but this was not a bad thing, it seemed very realistic. It was more like real life unfolding in front of you, flowing and eddying like a river, or like time passing.

 

Hailee Steinfeld's stubborn Mattie Ross is wonderful - a girl who looks like half pint, but has the "true grit" of a grown man - and I'm talking Lee Marvin. Her stony stare in the face of horse trader or cold killer is surprising, but that she was able to create a more vulnerable character underneath is what really holds the movie together. One can see her waver only once. What is endearing in her as a child, makes her unpleasant as a grown woman - impossibly high standards, a tight inflexible world view, and a direct way of telling people exactly what she thinks. Go see the picture, if only to see Steinfeld's performance as the little girl entering the heart of darkness.

 

Jeff Bridges seems to have taken a page out of Marvin's book rather than from John Wayne's, and there is a little moment not too far into the movie where he suddenly just takes off as Rooster Cogburn. Nothing pointed, but the way he just fingered his hat and stepped up into high gear made me smile. Matt Damon was quite good, and LeBoeuf carried more humor than I remember his character having in the other version. He was goofy, while still remaining an integral and highly honorable character. His last scene with Mattie was beautifully done.

 

Every character had not just a good moment, but a great one. Each character was etched finely, there was no mistaking one for another in this sparsely populated film. Josh Brolin was fascinating as the evil Chaney, who turned out to be a simple man unable to deal with his own feelings of hatred and anger at his own stupidity. Barry Pepper also turned in a surprising performance as a bandit with a sense of honour. Dakin Mathews was exasperated and funny as the horse trader - a personal favorite of mine - I wish I knew where I'd seen him before. And Dowmnhall Gleeson was heartbreaking as Moon, the kid who is sacrificed in the hunt for Chaney.

 

The film was played completely straight, without too many Coen Bros. quirks. But they have made an original movie that is very different from any other western I have seen, including the original Wayne/Hathaway film..... Were I to compare it to another movie, I would probably say it has more *Night of the Hunter* than anything else in it, and yet, it is no pastiche of any other film. It has some of the oddness of Little Big Man, or a Sam Fuller movie, but again, this is no copycat film. It stands on it's own.

 

There were a couple of scenes reminiscent of Ford but so muted that they would not be obvious to a casual observer. A shot of a landscape with a flat, Arkansas version of Monument Valley. A wonderful doorway shot of the open mine - Cogburn steps hesitantly into the shot, calling out cautiously as he does - as if he were trying NOT to fill Wayne's iconic position, but just accidentally wandered into the scene... it's a great moment.

 

There was a breathtaking, sad ride under a starlit sky as Mattie drifts in and out of consciousness, and an unsentimental ending.....until one looks closely at the last shot.

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I agree wholeheartedly with your review.

 

This has to be one of the better westerns to come out of Hollywood in a very long time. And it also makes me want to see it again so I can take it all in. Unfortunately I suffer from sciatica. The nerve has started to act up again, and I can't seem to get too comfortable sitting in uncomfortable theater chairs.

Unless I can find a better chair, like the ones at complexes that have the fully reclining chairs, I will just wait until the movie comes out on dvd.

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Oh, Rey, I am so sorry! I had sciatica when I was carrying my daughter, and it was awful! I once accidentally threw a large mushroom across a crowded restaurant from my fork, because my daughter sat on that nerve at the moment I was lifting the mushroom to my mouth. The spasms are terrible!

 

I hope it doesn't affect you all the time.

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So let's try and look at the 1969 & 2010 versions side by side. I like both for different reasons. I read the Portis novel roughly back when the first version of the film first came out around 1969, its been so long ago that I don't remember much details of the novel at all but remember the 1969 film hewing pretty close to the printed page. Recently the Hathaway/Wayne film version was on cable and I caught it again.

 

Visuals

 

Landscapes:

 

I was quite pleased with the 2010 version, it looked geographically correct. When I heard that this film was shot in New Mexico I was hoping that we wouldn't get a reprise of the 1969 film with its Colorado & California landscapes. Though visually rich the 1969 film did not look like The Indian Territory (Oklahoma) it was supposed to take place in, it was way too mountainous. In the 2010 film I saw only one quick shot of distant mountains in the background and the way it was shot it was hard to determine their height they could pass for the Ouachita, the Ozarks, or The Winding Stair Mountains .

 

Anyway, there are basically two major visual habitats of the Great Plains States one habitat, rolling parries, is the feature most people are familiar with from watching Westerns the other not so much known yet just as common are the cottonwood river bottoms (cottonwood & willow floodplains).

 

Cottonwood bottoms are also a major feature West of the Continental Divide with the heavy scent of Black Cottonwood aromatically signaling the coming of spring, though West of the Divide they are intermixed with the coniferous forests.

 

A minor more scattered Great Plains habitat feature are the small isolated mountainous masses and flat-topped buttes.

 

In the 2010 film they showcase the cottonwood bottom land and the actors travel quite extensively through it, making them one of the two the defining landscapes of the film the other one is the mountainous terrain that stands in for the Winding Stair Mountains (which are shortleaf and loblolly pine, southern red oak, white oak, and flowering dogwood covered small low elevation mountains).

 

Ft. Smith:

 

2010 impressive establishing shot, wide main street (an important feature for being able to U-turn around a wagon and team), expansive looking for a town of its size, a believable Ft. Smith. 1969 film town set was adequate but the constant shots of high mountains as a backdrop behind all the buildings is a constant reminder its not Arkansas.

 

Ned Pepper/Rooster Confrontation:

 

The 1969 film had Quaking Aspens behind all the actors, again a dead giveaway its Colorado. The 2010 film more geographically correct, depicts a small meadow surrounded by low elevation limestone ridges covered in pine.

 

Costumes

 

One thing that for me can tag a Western quite effectively are the hats, for some reason most recent Westerns have had actors wearing ridiculous looking hats that look way out of place on their heads its almost as if Stetson and Resistol hat companies were doing product placements. Go look in any Music CD entertainment store in the Country Music section and look at the CD covers to see what I mean, THAT look.

 

Golden Age Westerns had hats that looked sculpted to the actors bodies, heads, and faces. The 1969 and 2010 versions looked just fine in this department.

 

Screenplay

 

I think both films here are about equal following the novel's dialog and plot with differences in just emphasis, i.e. in the 2010 version on Mattie's POV. I like the sequence with Chen Lee & General Sterling Price in the 1969 version, Both the Bear Man/Doctor and the native boys torturing the donkey at Bagby's Store sequence in the 2010. There are enough differences to make both enjoyable watches from that standpoint.

 

Actors/Characters

 

Rooster Cogburn:

 

John Wayne has an abundance of nostalgic cinematic memory going for him in the 1969 version (heck he even partially homages his first entrance in "Stagecoach" 1939 with the modified Winchester) there is no way the 2010 film can compete with that. In 1969 Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn but he's also playing and old tried & true version of himself.

 

Jeff Bridges' Rooster does not remind you of any of Bridges' previous roles and he creates a believable drunken curmudgeon of a very capable hard as nails lawman showing true grit from the get go.

 

Mattie:

 

Hailee Steinfeld is more effective as the headstrong Mattie and is closer in age to the Mattie of the novel a definite plus.

 

LaBeouf:

 

No Contest, Dammon light-years better than Campbell. I think Campbell as just another popular singer that was almost formulaic-ally inserted into Westerns (Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo, Frankie Avalon in The Alamo) to boost box office.

 

Tom Chaney:

 

This one is a wash, both were effective with what they had to work with.

 

Ned Pepper

 

Another wash, in 1969 Robert Duvall was barely cutting his teeth in Westerns I believe he was previously in only an episode of Wild Wild West, though he has it now in 1969 he had no cinematic memory in Westerns. Barry Pepper was just as effective in the role.

 

Supporting cast:

 

This I'll give an edge to 1969 simply because it had a plethora of Golden Age Western actors to give it an instant cache, Strother Martin, John Doucette, Dennis Hopper, to name a few.

 

Score

 

I don't believe either film was effective here, nothing remotely memorable, to me anyway.

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I saw the new one today and agree with much of your post. You brought up a number of things not covered in the other thread on the new one.

 

I spent time in Yell County and Fort Smith. The old barracks where the jail, courthouse, and Judge Parker?s quarters were located still stand with the gallows in front. Unless they?ve been moved there since that time, this is one inaccuracy this one had-it was on the side. They are only a block or so from the river. There are still a lot of old looking buildings in the city and the new setting looked more real. And the area, both in Arkansas and Oklahoma, is flat.

 

Barry Pepper deserves an Oscar nomination for playing Ned Pepper. He was more than Robert Duvall?s equal. If I found one fault with Jeff Bridges? performance, it was the famous ?fat man/sob? scene. Pepper was right on but Bridges did mumble his line almost as if he was self conscious about delivering one of Wayne?s most famous movie quotes. Josh Brolin made the most of his short time on screen.

 

I recognized the actors prosecuting the case and dealing with Mattie in the beginning by face but not name. I thought not having Hopper, Martin, Doucette and Healy would detract from this movie but the-currently-unknown actors who filled their spots did just fine.

 

I think the music used in the new one fit it perfectly. Although grittier and more realistic that the first film, it is also more subtle. Much as I love Elmer Bernstein?s work, his 1969 score would have been too flamboyant for this one.

 

I don?t want to say any more and be a spoiler. I?m certain there are people who will never accept anybody but John Wayne as Rooster as well as detractors who will always claim he was ?just playing himself?. Both versions will be with us for a long time.

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I've never much cared for the original. I love John Wayne, but his performance seems too cartoonish here. And Hathaway's direction just seems very "1960s", in the worst way possible. [This review|http://deepfocusreview.com/reviews/truegrit.asp] pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter...

 

Edited by: ArchieLeech on Jan 8, 2011 2:35 PM

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What's so bad about liking both movies?

Personally, I prefer the Coen Bros. vehicle ... I like their take on darkness and comedy, and I think their story/script./cinematography just does a better job of painting a more realistic version of what the West might have been like at that time.

But Henry Hathaway's version with Wayne has some very good points, too ... Kim Darby vs. Strother Martin in the horse-trading exchange was pretty darn good. Wayne's play with Dennis Hopper and Jeremy Slate in the cabin scene, also is good.

Bridges' take on Rooster is a little darker. For example, after the shootout at the cabin, as dead bodies lay about, he says that it didn't go over so well. And the way he cuts off Le Boeuf about being associated with Quantrill. It's cold, almost chilling, and you know then that Bridges' Rooster has no problem being a killer of men.

Rarely am I fond of remakes ... but in this case, the Coens' take stands very much on its own.

Finally, I do prefer the starker, bleak ending in the Coen film ...

True Grit was not my favorite Wayne Western. But I enjoyed it, mostly because he could do that with an audience. Overall, however, I must say the new version is a better film, more of what I think the West would be like if we could take a trip back in time.

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  • 1 month later...

'You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.'

 

MrCutter and I went to see *True Grit* this afternoon. It is a terrific movie. The Coen brothers have done a masterful job of telling the story this time from Mattie's point of view.

 

With a tip of the hat to *Night of the Hunter* (the music), *Jeremiah Johnson* (the mountain man/bear man/doctor), *To Kill a Mockingbird* (the narration told by the young girl now all grown up and looking back as well as one of the cuts of music) and *My Darling Clementine* (the introduction to LaBoeuf)this movie soars.

 

Richard Deakins cinematography should finally win him a Oscar. This west is not pretty, it's a hard life and the terrain matches that hard life.

 

'What are you doin' here?' Tom Chaney to Mattie Ross when the meet again.

 

Josh Brolin plays Tom Chaney as an outlaw who is also dumber than a bag of rocks but incredibly menacing and he is really good in the role.

 

'I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man! ' Lucky Ned Pepper to Reuben Cogburn.

 

Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper is charming yet lethal.

 

'We have no rodeo clowns in Yell County.' Mattie Ross to LaBoeuf on their first meeting.

 

Matt Damon proves yet again what great range he has an actor. He has starred in many different genres and now a western. Glen Campbell is forever banished in my mind as this character.

 

'It astonishes me that Mr. LaBoeuf has been shot, trampled, and nearly bitten his tongue off, and yet not only does he continue to talk but he spills the banks of English.' Reuben Cogburn to Mattie Ross.

 

Jeff Bridges grows into this role. He shows us a very different character than the one John Wayne created. This Cogburn is deadly serious about what he does for a living and deadly serious about staying alive. He won the Oscar last year for *Crazy Heart* and he stands a snow ball's chance of winning next Sunday but this is the role I wish he could have won the Oscar for. And I say that as a life-long John Wayne fan.

 

'I do not care a thing about guns, if I did, I would have one that worked. ' Mattie Ross to Lucky Ned Pepper.

 

Hallie Steinfeld is the true discovery of this film. Finally, the story has a worthy Mattie (no offense to Kim Darby fans) and Ms. Steinfeld gives it her all. We watch her grow and learn a thing or three about life and growing up. Her friendship with Reuben Cogburn feels absolutely genuine as does her uneasy friendship with LaBoeuf.

 

She is smart as a whip, lippy as can be and confident in her knowledge of the law. The adventure she has makes her the woman she becomes.

 

I know some folks feel movies shouldn't be remade but I'm not one of them. This is a terrific story and a wonderful movie that stands on its own.

 

Kudos to all involved.

 

Edited by: lzcutter

 

Edited by: lzcutter to add some homages

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Thanks for the movie tip, Ms Cutter. Truthfully I was not sure what to think about this one (but had not really had time to do much checking into it) A thumbs up from you on it carries a lot of weight.. I will have to see what the QT thinks about our chances of getting to see it.. but most likely will have to wait until it comes out on DVD. But thanks for the review.. it will give me some stuff to think on when I do finally get to see it.

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My thanks also to LZ. You've convinced me to see a movie I was otherwise being stubborn about giving a try, simply because I connect that role so closely with John Wayne. It's odd, because I watched the original "True Grit" on TV over Christmas break, and there were several things about it that irritated me:

 

- Glen Campbell can't act, has a dopey smile, and is one of the lamer sidekicks the Duke ever tolerated.

- Kim Darby can't act and doesn't show much grit of any kind in her characterization.

- The film was shot in Colorado and the California Sierras, neither of which bear much resemblance to Arkansas or what was once Indian Territory and is now Oklahoma.

 

Your review suggests this new version has improved on each of these weak points, so we'll give it a go.

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Iz, I'm glad you finally got to see it and I knew you would enjoy the new version. The Brothers Coen did pull it off and with a wonderful cast. Like I said earlier the I will always love the Wayne version, despite the ability of his co stars, but in the new one, all the stars are in alignment..

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FredB,

 

One of the things that struck me the hardest and the quickest, is that Bridges was determined to make this role his own and not try to out-Wayne our memories of the Duke. This Reuben Cogburn is a very different animal than the one etched forty years ago.

 

As his respect for Mattie's tenaciousness grows, Bridges' Cogburn begins to grow as he tries to become the man she needs him to be while not giving ground on the man he is (which is more a killer than a man with the necessary true grit to capture Tom Chaney). It's a wonderful role for Bridges and it could have been played for laughs, for camp but by going back to the novel and the character that Porter first created, the Coen brothers and Bridges have created a character that can stand next to Wayne's characterization and not in the shadows.

 

This being the Coen brothers, they tend to do send-ups when they take on a genre piece (ie *Brother, Where Art Thou* -which I love, *The Man Who Wasn't There* etc) but not this time. There is no send-up in this one, outside a few homages.

 

It is, in many ways, a classic modern western told in a no-nonsense way that fills the screen with harsh but beautiful terrain, never lets us forget that it was a harsh, often unforgiving country to try and make your mark in and with characters as memorable as any created by the old masters.

 

It's as elegiac and moving as the hymn that drives the score and possibly made more moving by our memories of what came before but capable of standing on its own and never in the shadows of the previous movie.

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