I love westerns. Absolutely adore them. If I could have a career where I only made westerns I would be in seventh heaven. So when I had a chance to see the Coen Bros. True Grit I jumped at the opportunity. And I loved it of course.
Joel and Ethan Coen have created a classic western that not only embraces the mythical nature of the genre but also incorporates the violent, rough nature of more modern offerings. Now when I say violent, I’m not talking about the Coen’s previous embracement of over the top acts – there are no woodcutters here – but violence in the sense that desperate acts have consequences on humans and animals alike. A horse is run until it drops dead from exhaustion. A man nearly bites off his own tongue. Your dead body could be sold for spare parts. The performances are strong across the board, especially Matt Damon as the loquacious Texas ranger LeBeoeuf and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie, the stubborn young woman whose mission for revenge kickstarts the story. But really, let’s talk about Jeff Bridges.
Loyal readers (all one of you) may remember a previous entry in which I worried about Bridges being unable to step into John Wayne’s shoes. I shouldn’t have. Bridges knows enough to create a performance that stands outside of the Duke’s. His Rooster is still a drunk old man, crotchety and skirting the line between lawman and criminal, but without the Wayne legacy to fall back on, Rooster becomes a character who might not be all that he’s cracked up to be. The result is a much more balanced movie than Henry Hathaway’s 1969 original. Whereas that movie is more an excuse to see John Wayne take the reigns of his horse in his mouth and charge down five men (Roger Ebert has an unparalleled description in his original review), this film paints a broader canvas while telling the stort of two characters who share the bond of true, true grit.