DK Canada’s The Movie Book brings me another classic Coen Brothers film as I explore the What Else to Watch list following the recommendation of Fargo.
My curiosity was piqued when I first heard about the idea that the Coen Brothers were going to remake the iconic western that originally starring John Wayne, with one of my favorite actors, Jeff Bridges taking on the Duke’s role.
I love a good western, especially if done right, and this one is. It boasts a cast that includes Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. Grounding the film in reality, Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is a bit of a drunk and a U.S. Marshall of questionable morality, even as he serves the law.
Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) seeks revenge for the death of her father at the hands of Tom Chaney (Brolin), and a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Damon) is after the same man for the murder of a senator.
The dialogue is sharp and snappy, highlighting the script of the Coen Brothers adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel.
It’s a gorgeous looking film, that feels completely authentic, even as Bridges Cogburn growls, and slurs violently.
Like all the Coens’ films there is some humor, alongside great storytelling, and honestly, I loved seeing them take on the western genre with this film. The film doesn’t delve into western stereotypes or cliches, but instead tells the story of a young woman seeking revenge, and having to deal with what those around her would argue is a man’s world.
Mattie is a pure character, stubborn and determined, and her arc is well-plotted, but it’s Bridges you can’t take your eyes off. He embodies Cogburn, a tough, dangerous, but troubling Marshall who agrees to hunt down Chaney for her. For a fee.
They set out on a bloody business that has no way to end but violently, and it plays out brutally and almost hyper realistically. The story itself is almost biblical full of acts of revenge, redemption and sacrifice. And of course, the dialogue fairly crackles throughout.
The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor, but they got shut out completely. That is unfortunate because it is an exemplary film and proves that western films will remain a powerful and entertaining genre filled with tropes, tales, stories, and explorations of right and wrong.
True Grit is a favorite, and Bridges makes an iconic John Wayne role his own, as only he could. And while the original film is an incredible piece of cinema it is a product of its time, this updated version is grounded in a reality (with Roger Deakins as cinematographer) that seemed to rarely make it to the screen back in the day.
I do love a Coen Brothers film.
Pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find one to watch for yourself tonight.