Aslum's Review of True Grit
I guess nowadays we have to refer to this film as "the original" TRUE GRIT (Henry Hathaway, 1969), the ingenious story of a young girl (Kim Darby) who hires a gunslinger (John Wayne) past his prime to avenger her father. "Rooster" Cogburn (Wayne) doesn't really want to do it, but the girl's stubborn persistence convinces him to take the case, and so, with the help of a Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell), he ventures forth to save the day.
You will remember from my review of MCLINTOCK! (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1963) that I pointed out that John Wayne's persona was starting to wear thin by the early '60's, as America was changing into the nascent version of the America we know today. This is what it changed into, a world in which heroes have complex emotions, and don't necessarily do the right thing always, but instead simply do what needs to be done. Wayne's character questions everything about himself - his abilities, his worthiness as a man, his own emotions and / or sanity in taking up this girl's mission, and it shows. The road is difficult, but compelling, and ends with a resolution - not necessarily a satisfying one, nor exactly the one we might have hoped for, but one with a deeper meaning and more resonance. This is when film started to get really good, as the New American Cinema (my favorite period in film) was right around the corner, and the United States was still very unsure of what its own fate and values would ultimately be. It's a film from an uncertain, but exciting time, and Wayne's performance was definitely worthy of the Academy Award. I really like this film, and it underscores how good an actor John Wayne really was, particularly later in life. His persona doesn't overshadow the material here, and that's more because of how he plays it than how it's directed (though it is directed well, particularly the understated climax). The film understands that this is not a story about avenging a man's murder, but a character study that ultimately leads to its hero's redemption. A strong film in adventure movie form, which for me are always the best kind. A.