In the past two years, the western genre hasbeen revived by various creators. Rockstar’s epic video game Red Dead Redemption was loved by many and now director Jon Favreau is releasing the hotly anticipated comic book adaptation, Cowboys and Aliens later this year. Along with the recent release of Verbinksi’s Rango and Warner Bros. dismal Jonah Hex, there still seems to be some steam left in the genre. Whilst the genre seems mostly seems deserted by others, there are still a few people interested in making quality westerns.
Take the Coen brothers for example, whose prodigious cowboy film True Grit tells the tale of Mattie Ross, a young girl attempting to find and seek vengeance on the man who killed her father. Mattie is joined on her travels by two men, anti-hero Rooster Cogburn and law-man Labouef. Along their journey of tracking down the murderous Tom Chaney, they come across various challenging trials. The film features a stellar cast, with the likes of Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon.
True Grit sets itself to be a return to form for the stagnant genre, so thankfully, the film reminds certain people that there is still life in the western. This is purely due to the great storytelling of the Coen brothers. Most tales of the west come in the form of revenge stories and True Grit is no exception to that rule. Hailee Steinfield plays the incredible role of Mattie Ross, as she breathes life into a believable character. She provides the gusto to Mattie, who is an exceptionable individual stuck in a frightening situation.
Brolin plays the evil Tom Chaney effortlessly, proving to be a reminder as to why the Coen’s picked him for yet another film. He’s sinister, dirty and everything an outlaw should be. He is a mysterious figure at first, but when he finally makes his appearance, he is a threatening figure, making for a commendable villain.
On the other hand, there’s the Texas Ranger known as Laboeuf, played by the amiable Matt Damon. He’s clean-cut and straight to the point, portraying a man who is worthy of finally catching Tom Chaney. His methods may be strange, yet it fits for a character such as Labouef.
Unsurprisingly though, it is Bridges that steals the show here. Playing a dangerously armed drunk, Bridges’ trigger-happy Rooster Cogburn is an entertaining sight. Dressed in drab wear, overwrought with facial hair and with a keen eye for his targets, Rooster is a character who will be adored by many. Some may be unsurprised by his motives towards the end of the film, but it’s a welcoming change of pace.
However, the ending comes with a surprising turn of events much like the book, which is perfect for the Coen’s brothers who are rather keen on ending their films on a unique note. It works to their advantage and fits well within the frame of the story.
All in all, this western is a return to form for the genre. It is no surprise that the Coens deliver here, but the performances really add weight to the classic tale. Some scenes will stick in your mind, especially those concerning Labouef’s incredible aim. Full of fantastic cinematograghy throughout, look no further then True Grit to experience a modern take on the western, as it builds upon the Coen’s great catalogue of film.