True Grit follows the story of Mattie Ross, a 14 year old girl whose father was murdered by a farm hand named Tom Chaney. Mattie shows up to claim the body of her father for burial and at the same time hire someone to track down the killer. She crosses paths with Texas ranger LaBoeuf who is tracking Chaney for crimes committed in Texas as well as US Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn who she ultimately hires to hunt down and bring Chaney in. Since all parties have interest in Chaney, they reluctantly join forces with Mattie forcing in her own presence and participation where it’s not necessarily wanted.
One of the things I love is how the Coen brothers craft characters in their films. True Grit is just another great display of brilliant character exploration and development. The characters and the story immediately hooked me and kept me in my seat throughout the entire 90 minutes of the film. A big part of this was Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, which was absolutely amazing. Cogburn’s rough exterior, slovenly demeanor, tough as nails badass is endlessly fun to watch.
Matt Damon plays the ranger LaBoeuf with passion and skill. His flaws, confidence and pride flow seemlessly from moment to moment.
Josh Brolin is the killer Tom Chaney and isn’t seen nearly enough in here (my only real complaint about the film). Brolin continues to exhibit his great range filling the shoes of the dullard yet dangerous Chaney easily.
The one who almost steals the show here is Hailee Steinfeld who plays Mattie Ross. The girl is talented and it shows in the film as she could’ve easily been the weak link here vs. Bridges, Damon and Brolin but holds her own with the best of them. Her character is cocky and headstrong but not to a point where it gets on your nerves. She plays this character juuuuusssst right dancing on the edge of taking it too far without quite falling over the side.
The Coen’s screenplay of the Charles Portis novel is more online with the book than the first film that starred John Wayne (the only movie he won an Oscar for). I grew up with the first version and really loved it as a kid but have to say I think this latest version is actually stronger, which I found pleasantly surprising. The Coens do an excellent job steering the ship and guiding the passengers along the way.
True Grit is a great western with compelling characters and top-notch performances across the board, I highly encourage seeing it.
reviewed by Sean McKnight