The Coen Brothers’ remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie, True Grit, opens with Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) narrating these words:
You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.
Isn’t that true! And justice is one of those things that is frequently not paid for. But in this story, it will be.
Mattie Ross’s father has been murdered by a man called Chaney (Josh Brolin) who has gone scott-free by traveling into the Indian Nations with noone paying much attention to bringing him to justice. But Mattie is on the case and decides to hire a whiskey-swilling, one-eyed reprobate, US Marshall Reuben J “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to help track down the killer and bring him to trial – or shoot him if that is not possible.
Because Mattie is only 14 years old, it takes some time for the adults in her world to take her seriously. But she’s a stubborn little character and she convinces Cogburn that she can pay for his services. She wants Cogburn because it has been said of him that he has “true grit”.
Cogburn accepts the job and then discovers that Mattie intends to accompany him on the journey. Cogburn tries to leave without her but Mattie will have none of that. She courageously and tenaciously pursues Cogburn across a river on her newly acquired horse (in a wonderful scene) and latches on to Cogburn with every wile she has at her disposal. Joining them is Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon) who also wants to find Chaney. The threesome set off together on a tense journey with feisty relationships between them. As the story unfolds, we discover that every one of the characters in pursuit of Chaney exhibit “true grit” in their own ways.
True Grit is a great classic story with superb performances by all cast. But the standout is Hailee Steinfeld playing Mattie Ross in her first film. In a wonderfully mature performance that conveys determination and power, she dominates the story – as indeed her character should. Jeff Bridges (TRON: Legacy; Iron Man) is also excellent in a role that seems written for him. Matt Damon (The Bourne Ultimatum; The Departed), in one of his less significant roles, does a good job of playing off Bridges and Steinfeld.
The soundtrack is particularly interesting consisting of traditional hymns such as Leaning on Jesus that are adapted to support and enhance the story. Cinematography beautifully conveys the vastness of the open spaces and the close relationships between the three protagonists all seasoned with a Western flavour.
The whole movie is shot through with powerful themes of grace, justice, companionship and loyalty along with wry humour set within the western genre in what makes for a very entertaining, powerful movie experience.
'Terrific: tough, exciting, funny, gorgeous and bewitchingly acted, this is darn close to perfection.' – Angie Errigo/Empire
'The original western won John Wayne a puzzling and undeserved Oscar for finally falling off his horse. Don't expect the same miracle for Jeff Bridges. In the numbing hands of pretentious filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, history does not repeat itself in any way whatsoever.' – Rex Reed/New York Observer
some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
AUS: M (violence)
USA: PG-13 (some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images)