Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld.
“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” – Marc Brown
Ah the magnificent Coen brothers. Writers, directors, producers and Oscar winners. Here they are again, showing us their love of genre movie-making. This remake of a 1969 film by the same name (based on a book by Charles Portis) and starring John Wayne, Glenn Campbell, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper is apparently even better than the original, which I haven’t seen. As yet.
True grit, is what fourteen-year-old Mattie, played powerfully by Hailee Steinfeld (nominated for an Oscar), is looking for in the man she’s willing to pay to hunt down her father’s killer and bring him to justice and a timely hanging. This is a tale of retribution in a time of lawlessness when US Marshalls would work like bounty hunters for rewards to track down murderers and thieves in the wild West.
Mattie enlists old and fat Marshall Rooster Cogburn played by the phenomenal Jeff Bridges (nominated for an Oscar). The boozed up, geriatric Cogburn, with help from Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and the feisty Mattie give chase to Tom Chaney (played by Josh Brolin). Needless to say, the three don’t get along on their quest and the black humour, witty banter and charm of Mattie in playing referee between the two lawmen are what make True Grit ultimately gritty and gripping.
The Coen brothers have captured the spirit of the West, in all its bleak and stark hues, dirty and coarse but with a code of ethics in place. Bridges is ultimately the hero of the film, with his over-the-top gusto and bravado mingled with a sharp skill and knowledge of his profession. He delivers dialogue in the colloquial accent with inflections, which may not be picked up by the general audience; especially not our spoon-fed Indian viewers who like their English subtitles, however distracting they may be.
Hailee Steinfeld, nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars (she’ll probably win) is a treat to watch. The tenacity, spunk and sheer ebullience she displays is remarkable. And standing up ably to legendary Jeff Bridges is no mean task.
The tone of the film is cold, stark but dotted with trinkets of humour, however dark they may be. I thought the finale was a touch over-dramatic but then that’s the brothers for you. It may not win Best Picture, but Oscars are certain for this spirited Western.