Perhaps the Coens’ most commercial film, but only in a good way, I hasten to add. Great performances all round (particularly the girl, Hailee Steinfield), lots of tension and thrilling landscape photography, and – in my perhaps controversial opinion – miles better than the original. Apparently they went back to the book rather than the Wayne/Campbell movie for inspiration, and certainly the dialogue is as absorbing (thought with much less swearing) as that in the TV series Deadwood.
My only complaint was that Bridges growls with such whisky-soaked conviction that I had trouble hearing what he was saying occasionally. But don’t let that stop you going to see this at the cinema – it really is one of those movies that would loose at least half is power on the small screen. M & I both came out of the cinema buzzing with that feeling that we’d seen a classic movie which both evoked many of the greats of the 1960s and 70s but also felt wholly contemporary.
I have only vague memories of the John Wayne original, but the bit where the one-eyed Roster Cogburn grips his horse’s reins in his teeth and charges the bad guys looks remarkably similar in the two films. I haven't read the novel, but I understand Cogburn's monocularity isn't mentioned there. I could have done with Duke’s clarity of diction – I found Jeff Bridges as incomprehensible as Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men, but I'm prepared to believe that's how elderly bounty-hunters used to speak. I thought Matt Damon was excellent as a garrulous Texas Ranger. I also liked the elegiac score by Carter Burwell (based, to my hearing, on Nearer My God to Thee), and it was lovely to hear Leaning On The Everlasting Arms by Iris DeMent at the final credits.
Last edited by uiwangmike on Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
I saw the original TG on tv a lot as a kid and always enjoyed it. Finally read Charles Portis' novel a decade of so ago and loved it - enjoyed it so much i reread it within a year and it lost none of its magic second time around. Essentially, Portis created an anti-Huck Finn, a woman on the cusp of adolescence on a desperate journey with an older man but where Huck disdained all rules and distrusted the Bible Mattie swears by (and quotes) the law and the Bible.
Memory suggests the Coens follow Portis' book more closely but I found myself thinking they added a few elements -the man hung high on a tree, LeBoeuf being lassooed by Ned's gang and rescued by Rooster - although I could be wrong and simply don't recall these elements being in the book. I enjoyed John Wayne more as Rooster both because he more naturally fitted the character and he spoke more clearly - Flo could barely understand what Jeff was saying and I had to strain to understand at times.
Having enjoyed the book a lot I perhaps should have stayed away - while this is a decent film the book remains superior, it really is one of the great post-WW2 US novels. There was a lot to admire here (cinematography, soundtrack, Matt Damon, the bad teeth - such a rarity in US films!) but it never really came alive for me. If I hadn't read the book or seen the 1969 film I'd probably feel more enthusiastic. I felt the same about Girl With Dragon Tattoo and Let The Right One In - hugely enjoyable books made less than great films. The great American film of early 2011 is The Fighter, no contest.