“True Grit” is a beautifully crafted and superbly acted western. If it shows anything it is that this genre seriously needs to make a big come back. I found myself curiously underwhelmed though. I guess I was not expecting such a straight forward film from the Coen brothers.
The film is based on a book that was previously adapted in to a film staring John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. This time Cogburn is played by Jeff Bridges, as a grizzled, drunken, run down looking law man who is hired by a teenage girl to track down the man that killed her father. That young lady is Mattie Ross played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. They reluctantly join up with a Texas Ranger played by Matt Damon and head out in to dangerous territory to track down their target.
The target in question is Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. He is a small time criminal who has now joined up with a large gang of thieves headed by Barry Pepper.
The main character is Mattie. In the opening scenes of the movie we follow only her as she settles her dads affairs, bargains with a sleazy horse seller, enlists Cogburn and prepares herself for the hunt. This is Ross’ first major role in a movie, and on that basis she is a very strong actress. She has no problem going to toe to toe with an array of hard men. It surprises me that she is getting awards recognition in supporting categories. This is her movie from start to finish.
The supporting cast is made up of equally amazing performances. Bridges, fresh of winning his first Academy Award for “Crazy Heart”, creates this character in such a way that we immediately forget about the Duke. Not to say that he is better then John Wayne just that he reinvents it. Bridge’s Cogburn is deadly, even if his appearance and demeanour suggest otherwise.
Matt Damon is also very good here. Here he shows us a side of himself that we have not seen before. His Ranger is a straight shooter, even if he is not working with a full deck of cards. I liked his constant bickering with Cogburn.
The villains in this movie do not get much screen time but when they do they make the most of it. Brolin is great at playing a snake of a man. Pepper is focused and vicious as Lucky Ned Pepper. My only complaint is that when they finally enter the screen, the film ends soon after.
The Coen brothers have really rebounded from a string of flops a few years ago. In the last five years they have put together some remarkable films. This one does not measure up quite as well simply because they play it so straight. It is amazingly directed by it just seems like such a simple piece of genre filmmaking, made by two of the best directors of all time.
Anyway, that is just a small gripe. I liked this film a lot and hope that it does great business so that we get more Westerns in the future. It really is something to see on the big screen. The photography and cinematography are simply awesome.