The StoryRooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges sounding a bit like a more educated version of Billy Bob Thornton from Sling Blade) is a straight-talking, hard-drinking lawman who doesn't see in grays. It's a black and white world to Rooster, and he's always in the right.
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is a tenacious 14-going-on-30 year old who comes to Fort Smith, Arkansas to complete her father's unfinished business. Her father, Frank, was shot dead by the criminal Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) after an argument over Chaney's gambling losses, and Mattie - who's obviously the brains of her family - is determined to get revenge for her father's murder. She doesn't want to bring in Chaney to be tried; she wants to shoot him dead herself. And after an introduction in which we see her outwit an elderly businessman and turn a tidy profit on her deceased father's ponies and other possessions (some of which were stolen by Chaney), Mattie hooks up with Rooster to track down the cowardly Chaney.
After a rough start in which the two men try and ditch the persistent Mattie, the threesome set out across the plains to find Chaney. The lawmen quickly discover not only is Mattie as stubborn, fearless and sharp-tongued as they come, she's also whip smart and determined to not have her quest for justice be denied.
The ActingAlthough initially it's slightly difficult to understand Jeff Bridges as Rooster, it quickly becomes easy to pick out the words and fall into the rhythm of the dialogue (the lack of contractions starts off a little off-putting before settling in comfortably). Bridges is, after all, playing a drunkard so if his words slur it just makes his portrayal of the grizzled lawman that much more authentic. And don't even try and compare this performance with John Wayne's as Bridges has created his own version of Rooster Cogburn, the reluctant companion of an unflinching 14 year old ball of fire who, it should be said, he treats as an adult after their initial meeting. This Rooster's more eager for a drink than he is to bring in an outlaw, and more willing to settle matters by shooting at whatever angers him.
True Grit's veteran actors meet their match in newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, an unbelievable young actress who seems as though she could have been lifted straight out of the pages of Portis' novel. Steinfeld's charged with delivering some of the most difficult dialogue of the film, and each line uttered packs a wallop as she doesn't just recite the lines but understands the importance of each and every word. No one in the cast comes close to capturing the musicality of the writing the way young Steinfeld does.
The Bottom LineTrue Grit seemed to be a surprising choice for the Coens when it was initially announced, but after viewing the film it's obvious why they wanted to sink their teeth into Portis' work. The revenge story is timeless, and Portis' True Grit's delicious dialogue had to be too tempting to pass over. It may not fit in perfectly with their past projects, but the True Grit they've delivered is unmistakably a Coen endeavor. The filmmaking brothers are a perfect match for the material, and 2010's True Grit turned out to be one of the best films of the year.
True Grit was directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
Theatrical Release Date: December 22, 2010