Joel and Ethan Coen have a tendency to make great films. Under any other circumstances I would not have been interested in seeing a western. However, with the Coen name attached to it, I found myself longing for saloons, shoot outs, horses, and tumbleweed.
Following in the footsteps of the 1969 Oscar winner starring John Wayne, True Grit follows the story of an impetuous young girl by the name of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld). She is determined to find the man who killed her father and see that he is hanged. Mattie seeks out the rootin’ tootinest U.S. marshal she can find to join her on a journey to see that justice is served.
Enter Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). With a gruff voice, a bad attitude, and an eye patch, Rooster turns Mattie down when she approaches him with her request that they set out together. After she tracks him down in an outhouse, a court-house, and the back of an Asian market, stinking of whiskey and unable to roll his own cigarette, he caves.
Set to meet with Rooster the following morning, Mattie wakes up to a pipe smoking LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) watching her sleep. He’s come to offer his assistance in the slaying of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), whom he has been after for quite some time. Mattie, being the hard-nosed 14-year-old she is, firmly declines. She already has all the help she needs. Or does she?
The day Mattie embarks on her journey, things get interesting and the movie takes off from there. In a story full of classic western charm, everything falls perfectly into place. Jeff Bridges is a hard one to read. Is he the good guy? Is he the bad guy? Is he really helping Mattie? All of these questions circle in my mind as the plot thickens.
With an all-star cast and a few Coen brother favorites, the dialogue rolls along smoothly and Bridges is perfectly timed. His ability to be comic relief and the tough cowboy type simultaneously is uncanny. For a film like this, it would be difficult to write a lot about it and give very little away.
I will say that Matt Damon shines as does newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Her performance is reminiscent of a young Tatum O’ Neal in Paper Moon which won her an Oscar at 10 years old.
Coen standby Josh Brolin is fantastic, as usual. Barry Pepper, looking very menacing, has a short but very sweet role.
True Grit has plenty of grit and delivers a superb movie-going experience. Jeff Bridges is sure to give the best actor nominees at the Academy Awards a run for their money. Saddle up and get to the theaters to see this one pronto, partner.