Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) may be only 14 but she's determined to avenge the murder of her father by the outlaw Chaney (Brolin), who has fled into Indian territory. She tenaciously convinces gruff US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to take the case, rejecting the help of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who's been hunting Chaney for months. She also refuses to sit back and wait, riding out with Cogburn to chase Chaney down. Sure, this is no undertaking for a young girl, but Mattie may have more true grit than everyone else combined.
The Coens approach this story with dry, spare filmmaking that finds deadpan comedy in the most unexpected places. And they keep the focus tightly on the characters. Everyone revolves around Mattie, and is seen through her steely young eyes, which makes them all feel mythical and just a bit nostalgic, although the film's sentimentality is as rough as Rooster's unshaven face.
The cast is perfect, from Bridges blustery swagger to Damon's naive pomposity.
And even smaller side roles are packed with witty, telling detail. But Steinfeld anchors the film beautifully, fully inhabiting this brilliantly well-written character and surprising us (and the characters around her) in every scene. Her interaction with everyone she meets is charged with grim resolve, often both hilarious and scary at the same time. Nobody ever takes her seriously. At their peril.
Meanwhile, the Coens' writing and direction are simply gorgeous, delicately dancing through the story with snappy dialog and telling action that never quite goes the way we think it will. All of this is accompanied by Roger Deakins' expansive, bone-dry cinematography and a particularly gorgeous score by Carter Burwell, which echoes church hymns as well as the classic thriller Night of the Hunter. And while the drama itself might be a bit too simple for the film to be a classic in its own right, it's a thoroughly entertaining ride.
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd December 2010
Box Office USA: $171.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $249.3M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, Scott Rudin Productions, Mike Zoss Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 249 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Starring: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, Matt Damon as LaBoeuf, Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney, Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper, Dakin Matthews as Col. Stonehill, Jarlath Conroy as Undertaker, Paul Rae as Emmett Quincy, Domhnall Gleeson as Moon (The Kid), Elizabeth Marvel as 40-Year-Old Mattie, Roy Lee Jones as Yarnell, Ed Lee Corbin as Bear Man, Leon Russom as Sheriff, Bruce Green as Harold Parmalee, Candyce Hinkle as Boarding House Landlady, Peter Leung as Mr. Lee, Don Pirl as Cole Younger, Joe Stevens as Cross-examining Lawyer, David Lipman as First Lawyer, Jake Walker as Judge Parker, Orlando Smart as Stableboy, Ty Mitchell as Ferryman, Nicholas Sadler as Repentant Condemned Man, Scott Sowers as Unrepentant Condemned Man, Jonathan Joss as Condemned Indian, Maggie A. Goodman as Woman at Hanging, Brandon Sanderson as Indian Youth at Bagby's, Ruben Nakai Campana as Indian Youth at Bagby's