Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Screenplay by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Based on the novel by Charles Portis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper
Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) is seeking out someone to help track down Tom Chaney (Brolin). Chaney killed her father and fled with Ned Pepper (Pepper) and his gang. Mattie finds her man in Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), a hard-drinking Marshall with a shoot first mentality. Mattie and Cogburn aren’t the only ones looking for Chaney though. Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon) has been on Chaney’s trail since he murdered a Texas State Senator. Now this odd threesome is on the hunt in Indian Territory for a group of dangerous outlaws.
In 1969, John Wayne (The Longest Day) starred in the first adaptation of True Grit, a novel by Charles Portis (Rooster Cogburn). This film became a classic Western that earned Wayne an Oscar for Best Actor and made significant profits at the box office. When the Coen Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis) decided to remake this film they announced the project as being much closer to the novel than the original movie. Together, they wrote and directed this film. The work of the cast and crew would combine for ten Oscar nominations.
The cast of this movie is a diverse collection of talented people. This includes Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski), Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game), Matt Damon (The Adjustment Bureau), Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan). The chemistry between the actors is evident throughout the movie, taking full advantage of the unique dialogue. In the lead roles, Steinfeld and Bridges were an excellent pairing, earning Oscar nominations for both of them.
Jeff Bridges does a great job recreating Rooster Cogburn for this movie. This is not an attempt to bring back the Rooster Cogburn of John Wayne. It’s a new version of the character, pulled from the novel as a hard-drinking and hard-living Marshall. Bridges not only brings him alive as a callous individual, but he also gives him a hint of compassion that surfaces only briefly, and is quickly hidden again behind the tough exterior. Opposite Bridges is a wonderful performance from Steinfeld. Her version of Mattie Ross is in stark contrast to Cogburn in every way. Her acting is deliberate and simple, avoiding any attempt to over-act the role.
In addition to the two Oscar nominations for acting, this film also earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. These aspects of the film all came back to the excellent writing and direction of the Coen brothers. Their screenplay brought out a darker side to the story which they capitalized on with intense visuals and great dialogue. The Coen brothers touch is evident in the tone of the film and the beautiful visuals that seem to contrast with the content of the story.
This movie also earned a number of other Academy Award nominations, including Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Art Direction. This collective success is evident throughout the film. With their darker vision, the Coen brothers created one of the best Westerns of the last 20 years.
If there’s a flaw to this movie, it’s more likely related to the expectations of the viewers. This is not a John Wayne Western, and the man in the white hat does not exist. This is a serious and dark drama with flawed characters that wouldn’t have fit into the Westerns of the 50s and 60s. If you’re able to adjust your expectations this is one of the better Westerns from this generation of film-makers.
This is a great movie from every aspect. For fans of Bridges or the rest of the cast, this is a chance to see great acting. If you’re a fan of Westerns, this is one you definitely need to check out. This has something that will appeal to fans of serious dramas and crime films also. I would also recommend this to fans of the Coen brother’s films. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.