The Coen brothers are a wonderful writing and directing duo, so despite my general lack of enthusiasm for Westerns I gave True Grit the benefit of the doubt, and I’m glad I did. I’ve never seen the 1969 original, but I doubt it would stand up to this modern retelling. Everything from the acting down to the costume design is about as good as it gets.
Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, a U.S. Marshal hired by 14-year-old Mattie Ross (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) to find and capture the man who killed her father. Seemingly wise beyond her years, Steinfeld does a fine job of playing the calculating young woman and Bridges embodies the drunken old man. It turns out Ross’ father’s murderer is wanted for crimes in Texas too, and Matt Damon is in town as LaBeouf, a Texas Ranger who is also after him.
Against their better judgment, Mattie’s tenacity convinces Cogburn and LaBoeuf that she has what it takes to tag along. The ongoing clash between Cogbun and LaBeouf, and Mattie’s inexhaustible stubbornness provide most of the entertainment. There really aren’t that many action scenes, but the film maintains an enjoyable balance of humor and tension throughout. Along the way we’re treated to the stark scenic beauty Westerns are known for.
This is easily one of the better films I’ve seen in the past few years. It is currently available on Netflix instant stream (in Canada, at least), so if you’ve been thinking about seeing it, now would be a good time to do so.
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