True Grit is one of the best westerns I have seen in some time. The character of Rooster Cogburn seems to be a character Jeff Bridges was born to play.
The story, a remake of a classic 1969 John Wayne movie, is about a young girl named Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) in the old west who sets out to avenge the death of her father shot down in cold blood by outlaw character Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To accomplish this goal, she hires U.S. Marshal-for-hire Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a somewhat burnt-out old drunkard with a reputation for getting his man dead or alive (usually dead). The two are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who has been tracking Chaney since long before he killed Mattie’s father.
The movie focuses very little on getting the bad guy and more on developing the relationships between the three main characters who at times are more at odds with one another than working together.
The movie feels more like older westerns from the 70’s than the more modern ones you see today, which is to be expected since it is a remake. The character development is great, and I believe both Bridges and Steinfeld should get Oscar nods for this movie. For those who like to have big-action climatic endings in their westerns, you might find this movie a little lacking. While the movie certainly has some shootouts, it doesn’t rely on them for the story. The end also has some very sad and almost unexpected moments that brought a tear or two to my eye.
It has been many years since I have seen the original version and I remember very little about it, so I can’t really compare the new with the old. I am seriously considering going back to re-watch the original, but I will say this new version should stand very well on its own. If you like westerns or Cohen Brothers movies, you will definitely want to go catch this one.
“True Grit” opens in theaters on December 22, 2010.