Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of westerns. Telling the story of a one-eyed Marshall helping a young girl to find her dad’s murderer, the movie transcends the Western stereotype I have come to associate with similar movies and found it to be a really enjoyable movie at that.
The Coen brothers’ remake of the 1969 original movie is remarkable, currently nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards with its lead actor and actress nominated for their roles as well.
I will not go into the plot of the movie apart from painting out a general picture. Marshall Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is hired by 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to kill her father’s murderer. On their path, they meet up with a Texas ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) and together, the continue on their path to find the murderer, overcoming many hurdles.
What is really interesting in the movie is the community they are living in. I’m not sure how accurate a representation the movie is of a 19th century American Western community but the way law was enforced back then is quite fascinating. It it what moves the characters: their will to see justice enforced, regardless of how we currently view justice to be. Do you believe Mattie’s pursuit to kill her dad’s murderer is justified? or is she a hate-blinded fourteen year old? Do you believe Marshall Cogburn is a ruthless man who only seeks money or is he a compassionate person who really wants to see the killer brought to justice?
Jeff Bridges delivers a very strong performance. I cannot draw comparisons to his role in “Crazy Heart” which garnered him an Academy Award. But I have to say, I thought this was a more engaging performance. He delivers his sharp dialogue with a brilliant efficiency, helping the movie in its slow moments. Moreover, his embodiment of the “father-figure” for Mattie is filled with subtle nuances which make him assuming this role quite enjoyable to watch.
The breakthrough here, however, is the amazing Hailee Steinfeld. To say this teenager shines as Mattie Ross is the understatement of the year. Nominated for a supporting actress at the Academy Awards, I believe she belongs in the leading actress category. She is the movie. She is the main acting-driving force. Young as she might be, the other two men rarely do something without her approval – and it isn’t because she’s paying them. She portrays a very strong character and does so marvelously. In my opinion, her acting is the highlight of the movie.
All in all, True Grit might not be my favorite movie this year – especially with all the high-caliber movies that have been released. But True Grit excels at what it’s meant to be: provide an enjoyable Western movie that helps break out the misconceptions some people might have about the genre, while serving as a vehicle for its acting personnel to shine. Look out for a possible Hailee Steinfeld upset at the Oscars this year.