[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B005DS0VMQ][/pullquote] The Coen Brothers’ True Grit is the second adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by Charles Portis in 1968. The original starred John Wayne and his performance as US Marshall Rooster Cogburn provided him with his only Academy Award. 41 years later, Jeff Bridges was nominated for the same award for playing the same character. He lost out to Colin Firth for his portrayal of King George VI in The King’s Speech. It was the second consecutive year that the two men were favourites for the award, and some would argue that they both won for the lesser performance of the two. True Grit went on to be nominated for 10 Academy Awards, but won none.
True Grit follows Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is a 14-year-old girl who is seeking revenge for her father who was killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She enlists the help of veteran US Marshall Rueben ˜Rooster’ Cogburn (Bridges). Together they travel the west in search of Chaney and meet Texas Ranger LaBouef (Matt Damon) who is also on Chaney’s trail. They argue, bond and experience ˜a lively time’ together before the final showdown.
The most notable thing to say about True Grit is the performances that hold it all together. Bridges is sublime as the growling veteran Rooster and he is at his best when slightly drunk and arguing with LaBouef and Ross about anything and everything. Ross herself is played with a sort of stoic responsibility by newcomer Steinfeld and when you add an over-the-top show-off performance by Damon as Labouef, it is a true joy just to sit and listen to them snipe at each other.
The West is a dangerous place, with outlaws, the weather and wildlife all acting against the cast, but somehow this just drags you into their experience even more and by the end you love the people and place that the film is set. It feels classically made and lacks some of the eccentricity of the Coen’s previous works, which allows the film to breath in a more natural way.
Despite the positives, True Grit has some pacing issues with the plot, and there are times where the Coen’s dwell too long on conversations that do not move the story along. It is probably because the cast are clearly having a great time playing their characters, however it is self-indulgent and causes the action to feel drawn-out and less urgent. It is these moments that are sometimes the best the film has to offer, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t have been moving the story forward as well as being as entertaining as they are.