Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper
Review: It was a bold move by the Coen brothers to select an unknown like Hailee Steinfeld to undertake the lead role of Mattie Ross in this remake of 'True Grit.' The role was very demanding and the fact that it is the role of a child means it would take a special actress to be able to pull off such an unusual part for a child. Steinfeld is able to pull it off and does it quite well. Mattie Ross is a headstrong 14 year old and at first it can be distracting how she speaks. Mattie has a knowledge of the law and the world around her that makes it seem unrealistic a 14 year old girl at that time would have. However, once you get used to it Mattie's headstrong nature becomes somewhat endearing, especially as it reveals itself to be a defense mechanism to mask her fear of the brutal world around her that lead to the death of her father.
It is her father's death that leads her to find Rueben 'Rooster' Cogburn, a US Marshall who has the reputation of being the most ruthless of the Marshall's. In the opening scene in which we are introduced to Cogburn he is being questioned as a witness in the trial of a man that he brought in. Cogburn is revealed to be a ruthless as Mattie was told as he admits to shooting and killing and 23 different fugitives. Fortunately, this is exactly what Mattie is looking for, somebody ruthless to hunt down her Father's killer and use 'retribution' to bring him to justice.
After some convincing Mattie is able to get Rooster to agree to help hunt down her father's killer to bring him back to justice. They also team up with a Texas Ranger named Le Beef, who also has an interest in the fugitive. Eventually, Le Beef departs for his own way and Rooster and Mattie are left to continue their quest on their own.
As they move along on their trek, they encounter many situations in which Rooster is well acquainted with, but Mattie has no experience in. She takes her queue from Rooster and he begins to take the form of her protector. Along their journey Rooster also reveals stories and tidbits about his past. It is through these and other events we begin to learn a little more about what makes up the man they call Rooster.
Rooster appears old and not very useful by most standards. He is aged, drunk, has quite a gut, and only has one eye with the other covered up by a patch. he is even lambasted by the Texas Ranger Le Beef as to how he is not the man he once was and will not be able to keep up and find the man they are both looking for. This culminates in a scene where a drunken Cogburn begins to launch objects in the air and shoot them down with his gun to prove just how good he still is. He does prove to be quite good and even drunk does a better job than Le Beef can muster dead sober.
This is a scene where even more gets revealed about this man. After learning about the trials and tribulations he has gone through in his life and seeing this scene it is apparent what is going on with Cogburn. For him, this is not a quest to bring retribution to the man Mattie is looking for, this is a quest to bring retribution to his own soul. Through his journey he sees his opportunity to protect Mattie and make things right for her as a way to do something right and something in his life he can be proud of.
It is that individual journey that was the most interesting part of the film for me, and Jeff Bridges gives jus a phenomenal performance as Cogburn. Tough shoes to fill playing a role that won John Wayne his only Oscar, but Bridges does it and does it well. He is aided by a solid performance from the newcomer Steinfeld, and a good as it needed to be performance by Damon.
This is a solid film and a little more mainstream than most Coen Brothers movies, so if you like westerns or want to see a very well made solid film then this is definitely worth your time.