Movie Review – TRUE GRIT – ★★★★★ Five incredible stars
In 1969, John Wayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of rough and rowdy, U.S. Marshall Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn. Memorable performances by newcomers Kim Darby and Glenn Campbell rounded out this unlikely trio to give us one of the best movies of the year.
That was then and this is now.
If John Wayne set the bar, Jeff Bridges sailed over it with room to spare. Missing was the campy humor from ‘The Duke’ and his on-screen sidekicks of 1969. The Coen Brother’s gritty (no pun intended) adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel was an extremely accurate depiction of 1880 life in Fort Smith, Arkansas – a small town bordering the Indian nations (current day Oklahoma). From the opening minutes of True Grit, I was glued to my seat as this improbable alliance unfolded.
Mattie Ross, played by newcomer – fourteen year old Hailee Steinfeld, arrived in Fort Smith to settle her recently murdered father’s affairs. She hires a drunken Marshall Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to guide her into Indian territory and bring her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Jeff Brolin) to justice. Joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon), they head west into an inevitable showdown with Chaney and his fellow outlaws.
I was mesmerized by Steinfeld’s portrayal of Mattie Ross. At fourteen years old, she wore the role like a cozy glove. She blended so keenly into the firm handed Mattie Ross, it will be a surprise if she doesn’t receive an Oscar nod for Best Actress. Steinfeld brought a style and believability to the role well above her age and blew away Kim Darby’s performance by miles. In an interview with Matt Damon earlier this week, he raved about how comfortable Steinfeld was on set; how she easily performed requiring minimum takes on each scene. I’m sure some of that comes from working with the Coen Brothers. They have been described as actor’s directors and have a real knack for bringing a sense of comfort to the the set. Some of my favorite films, Fargo, O’ Brother Where Art Thou, and the cult classic, Raising Arizona, come from the Coen Brothers.
This movie is one of the best seen in a long time. I suspect the primary cast, Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon, will all receive Oscar nominations for their roles. A Best Picture nomination should be just around the corner for this film.
If I had anything negative to say about the movie it would be that villains Tom Chaney and Ned Pepper, played by Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper respectively, did not get enough screen time to flesh out their characters. In relatively minor roles, this pair excelled!
Do not wait for DVD for this one. Jeff Bridge’s Rooster Cogburn is larger than life and deserves to be seen on the big screen.