The Dude goes West.
Renowned for their inventive directing style the Coen brothers display their film making prowess in a reimagining of a famed western original. The brothers twin their unique style with classic western conventions to create a pastiche that is brimming with attitude.
After her father is murdered, fourteen year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) embarks on a quest of retribution to punish her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To aid her search she acquires the assistance of the notorious U.S. marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Having persuaded Cogburn to help she decides to accompany him because his hard drinking, shiftless nature and unprincipled attitude does not inspire her faith in him. Joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) the unlikely trio embark on their search, encountering dangers and struggles on a journey that truly tests their grit.
Somewhat surprisingly, no-one shows as much grit as fourteen year old Mattie Ross. Her father’s death made her a stronger character and she spends the duration of the film living in his shadow. Not only is she engulfed in her father’s oversized coat but also in a world full of danger. She rides in his saddle and wields his Colt; it is clear that she is a tough cookie. She may only be a child, but through action and dialogue she appears much more mature. She controls the people she encounters from the tight-fisted trader who is left quaking in his boots to the strutting Rooster whose tail feathers she regularly plucks. While Jeff Bridges comfortably steps into John Wayne’s boot-shaped footsteps, all of the attention centres on Hailee Steinfeld whose performance is perhaps the best element of the film. Not dissimilar to Chloe Moretz performances in Kick-Ass (2010) and Let Me In (2010) which are not only brilliant, but comply to the same idea; a child actor plays a character that is much more mature than expected.
In terms of cinematography, True Grit (2010) is brilliantly creative, which is not surprising from the Coen’s first choice cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is no stranger to the western genre, with previous works including No Country For Old Men (2007) and The Assassination Of Jesse James (2007). From the great atmosphere created by long shots to the recurring amber colour palette, Deakins’ adept use of cinematography becomes an homage to the western greats.
The Coen’s have once again delivered in terms of direction, writing and cinematography in this splendid remake of Henry Hathaway’s legendary original.