Director: The Coen Brothers
Henry Hathaway’s “True Grit” was something of swan-song for the traditional Western with John Wayne receiving an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, the grizzled U.S. Marshal. Whilst all the publicity for the Coen Brothers’ 2011 film is keen to point out that’s it’s an adaptation of Charles Portis’ original novel and not a remake of the 1969 film, comparisons with the original are hard to avoid.
After the cold-blooded murder of her father, the headstrong 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) searches for a man with ‘true grit.’ She finds the degenerate and hard-drinking Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges, who garnered a deserved Oscar nomination for his performance) and enlists him in the search for Tom Chaney, the man responsible for her father’s death. Along the way they are joined by LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger who wants Chaney for his own reasons.
In some ways this is reminiscent of the Coens’ “Fargo,” with a snowy landscape and chilly atmosphere that is in marked contrast to Hathaway’s original work which basked in desert landscapes and shimmering sunsets. The approach works well, giving the impression of an era and time that is ending and a generation of men who will soon die out. Whilst the Coen’s remain resolutely faithful to their source material they still manage to bring in much of the stylization for which they have become famous and bring out some incredibly subtle and nuanced performances from their cast.
Whilst the Western has had something of a rebirth over the past few years, this still works as a lament to an era that has been lost to the annals of history and a generation of people for whom toughness was a requirement for living everyday life. Moving, beautiful and elegantly crafted, “True Grit” is a return to form for the Coen Brothers and a fine example of a modern western.
Now showing in all three countries.