A brutal murder, an escaped convict and a scorned kin avenging the death had been a running theme in yesteryear India cinema, especially the 70’s and the 80’s. What you get with Coen Brothers’ True Grit is something similar, but with a Western flavor.
After her father was murdered and robbed by his handyman, 14-year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is determined to find the killer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Wanting to settle for no less than the toughest US Marshall around, she hires the one-eyed, old and drunken Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) for his apparent ‘true grit’.
They are joined in the quest by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who wants to take Chaney dead or alive to
where he is wanted for another murder. Cogburn and LaBoeuf are keen to do it themselves and keep the young girl away. The vengeful and tenacious Mattie wants Chaney dead too, but not for other crimes; she would rather kill him for her own reasons. It is her ‘true grit’ that we get to see. Texas
The film is based on a 1968 novel of the same name by Charles Portis. A film of the same name made in 1969 starred John Wayne as Cogburn, a performance that won him an Oscar. The 2010 version too bagged ten nominations but won none.
Successful moviemakers Joel and Ethan Coen ensure that there is never a moment where it loses neither its plot nor feels draggy. The sharp dialog packs in a punch; can’t really have a western flick without slick dialog, you see. The story is about guts plus heart; and this one does it without overdone machismo or sentimental stuff.
Hailee Steinfeld who plays the 14-year old Mattie Ross was cast for the role from among 15,000 hopefuls in a nation-wide casting call for a ‘simple, tough-as-nails, young woman in post-Civil War Arkansas’. Her stellar debut performance holds the movie together. The Oscar nomination was thoroughly deserved.
Acclamined Jeff Bridges makes a mark with Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon’s LaBeouf and Barry Pepper’s ‘Lucky’ Ned Pepper deliver some of the movie’s moments. We get to see very little of Josh Brolin. Probably, a few more minutes about his bad side would have helped the audience appreciate the emotional side of the protagonists.
In all, what you have here is a well made western. It has an outlaw, three gun trotting folks on horseback and a chase through mountains and forests. Worthwhile!
Rating 8/10: A Quintessential western!