After completing and thoroughly enjoying Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption last year, I’ve developed a certain penchant for a good western. Exploring my new found interest, I’ve watched a few of the classics; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and some of the more contemporary iterations such as Unforgiven and 3:10 to Yuma. So when I read that the Coen brothers would be turning their hand at recreating a John Wayne tour de force, I couldn’t wait to go and see it.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Despite enjoying Burn After Reading and A Serious Man, I did feel that the last two Coen brothers films were only lukewarm, tending to drag in parts. However, True Grit really hooked me in from the off. It was an entertaining, clever and engaging take on a true classic that had a Coen brothers twist.
A particular highlight was what Jeff Bridges brought to the role of Rooster Cogburn. His gruff, sometimes inaudible dialogue is typical of the no-nonsense anti-hero he plays, which is juxtaposed by Matt Damon’s maverick character, LaBouef. Damon seems to be trying a bit too hard at parts; his accent isn’t entirely convincing and despite the otherwise excellent costumes in the picture, Damon is a bit too clean-cut. He spent half the film speaking with a swollen tounge, which didn’t help matters. There were also glimpses of excellence from the terrifying Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and a frustratingly short appearance from Barry Pepper.
The stand-out performance in the film has to go to Hailee Steinfield, who has been nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Mattie Ross. Playing an independent young girl set on avenging her father’s death by hunting down Tom Chaney, with or without the help of Cogburn and LaBouef, she avoids the usual clichés of a fiery upstart adolescent, delivering a mercurial performance which leapt from confident resolve when haggling with an apathetic tradesman to sincere compassion for her horse, Little Blackie. Her performance was akin to the acclaimed role of Natalie Portman in one of my favourites, Leon.
So if you’re hankering after an action-packed western that is a tense, surreal, emotional roller-coaster, check out True Grit. You won’t be disappointed.