DIRECTOR(S): Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
May Contain Spoilers!
The Oscars are rarely the measure of a great film, as for where I’m concerned, but there are exceptions. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and my tastes are changing or the top films of the year according to the Academy are becoming more accessible but it’s probably just a bit of both.
Nominated for 10 Oscars, this remake of the 1969 John Wayne western, True Grit, though the Coen’s claim that it’s not a remake, rather another adaptation of the source book, saw Jeff Bridges take on the lead role, of the Ruben “Rooster” Cogburn. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is the 14-year-old daughter of a man murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and sets about hiring U.S. Marshall, Cogburn, to capture Chaney and bring him to some sort of justice.
Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also on his trail and the group team up in the pursuit. The language if biblical in style, which adds a real sense of historical accuracy, even though it probably isn’t the case, but the weighty dialect is perfectly contrasted with the black sense of humour of the Coen Brothers, who manage to maintain a distinct sence of realism, as well as to craft an enjoyable western. This looks like the Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007), but feels tons lighter and benefits from a much shorter running time.
The characters are as strong as they could be, with inspired casting decisions, not least Steinfeld who sounds like a 45-year-old school teacher speaking through a 14-year-old school girl! Bridges is hilarious as he mumbles his way through and Damon is strangely appealing as the cocky and almost geeky Texas Ranger. Josh Brolin, tough as great as ever, is hardly used as the pursued killer but when he does turn up as the slightly slow-witted villain, he only serves to add to one of the most enjoyable and authentic westerns that I’ve ever seen!
I was enthralled from the opening monologue and the only major quibble that I have, was with the final song, which screamed it’s way on the screen. But the collection of quirky, yet believable characters and the creation of the wild west which was both scary and fascinating, was a triumph and worth every accolade of which the film was both nominated and awarded.
In short, this is the best western that I’ve seen in years, capturing both the fun and history of the genre and possibly my favourite western since Wyatt Earp (1994).