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The thing that struck me the most about the story was that it wasn’t really Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn with all the True Grit , it was in fact, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld), out to avenge her father’s death, who showed what she was made of.  Though Rooster, with just one eye and unsteady from too much whisky, could still shoot two corn cakes out of the sky.  Mattie found that a ridiculous waste of time. Her courage and determination carried the story from start to finish.

The movie was beautifully filmed. The cinematographer handily captured the vastness of the wide open Western delights.  Like huge night skies sprawling with stars, the prairies which seem to go on forever, as well as the soaring, jagged mountain ranges.  All exhilarating to behold.

Jeff Bridges, as always, was magnificent, playing the crusty Rooster Cogburn.  I admit I can’t remember the original seen long ago (though I hope to see it again, soon).  In this version, Mr. Bridges never once reminded me of John Wayne. My guess is he made it his own.  As he will do. 

Matt Damon did a fine job, too as LaBoef, the Texas Ranger, also on the trail of Tom Chaney, the murdering villain.  Tom was memorably played, though briefly, by Josh Brolin.

The movie was dark. A trademark of the Coen Brothers. Even my beloved Big Lebowski  has some darkness to it.  Perhaps True Grit 2010 was a little violent and gory in spots.  But it is a Western, and I’m sure, no more so than the first one. I excuse David Lynch of such indiscretions, surely I can do the same for the Coens.  And I am perfectly free to hide my eyes, if I choose.

But the Coen Brothers are also expert at bringing humor to the dimly lit corners of our fears.   This movie was no exception.  Waves of humor wafted through it.  And a meandering stream of love and tenderness was readily apparent under its rough exterior.  There was something in Jeff Bridges’ performance which connected the fading Marshall with the spunky, young girl, much the way he did as the heroin-injected foil in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. The young actresses in both movies held their own in these roles.  (The Tideland part, however, played by Jodell Ferland – no doubt younger than Hailee – was far more complicated.)  I sense that Jeff Bridges carries a fine heart to every role he plays.

Without giving it away, I have to say I was disappointed with the ending.  It was too abrupt, leaving too many emotional threads hanging.

All in all, though, another really good film from Joel and Ethan Coen. Worth seeing on many levels.

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