Westerns are a tough sell for me, but since the Coen Brothers aren’t, I watched True Grit (2010) with faith that they could make me interested. Although the film-making is as assured as ever, this one just didn’t quite float my boat, however; I couldn’t get quite past my western bias.
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is a precocious fourteen-year-old girl, stubborn, quick-witted, and fearless. She travels west to settle the affairs of her recently murdered father, but this doesn’t just stop at claiming the body and arranging the funeral. She wants to extract revenge on the murderer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To that end she hires the meanest US Marshal in the business, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to hunt Chaney down and bring him to justice. Also getting in on the act is noble Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon).
The movie is filled with trademark Coen elements: quirky, amusing dialogue, random shocking violence, gorgeous cinematography, the usual smorgasborg of filmic wonders. And the acting is great, particularly from Steinfeld, one of those creepy-good youngsters with acting chops beyond her years. Bridges’ almost-comprehensible Cogburn is also a sight to see, a fun role well cast. It’s certainly easy to appreciate, then, but in the end this one just wasn’t entirely for me. Western trappings and revenge plots aren’t usually compelling to me, and that proved true again here; I felt one step removed from the proceedings. Fans of westerns and of Jeff Bridges will probably get more mileage out of this one than I did.