Charles Portis’ novel is about a 14-year-old girl who, along with an aging U.S. marshal and another lawman, tracks her father’s killer in hostile Indian Territory. While the original film was a showcase for John Wayne, the Coens’ version will tell the tale from the girl’s point of view. The original starred Kim Darby as the teen, Wayne and Glen Campbell as the lawmen, Jeff Corey as the killer and featured Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper as fellow outlaws.
Young Hailee Steinfeld might have quite a future in the movies. She plays 14-year-old Mattie Ross, whose father was gunned down by an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and she intends to make sure he is captured and pays the price for his murder. Steinfeld is terrific in her role and displays an honesty and intelligence which is beyond her years. Her character, Mattie, searches for Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) because she is told he shows true grit and he is the man she hires. Also on the outlaw’s trail is a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. The movie is strengthened by terrific performances all the way around, including the humorous antics of Cogburn who adds some funny one-liners to his gruff manner and Damon’s straight-to-the-point ranger also is well played.
The movie is steeped in realism as Cogburn and Mattie ride the long trail and deal with scum and villainy every time they turn around. The story takes a few unexpected turns near the end but still manages a realistic conclusion. It was refreshing to hear scriptures quoted as well and the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” is instrumentally played as a theme in the film and is vocally used as the closing music. Unfortunately for family viewers, this movie contains some explicit scenes of violence including some bloody shootings and two scenes involving hanging. The language is strong as well, and contains the curse of one character who tells another, “To H— with you”, and we never approve films with this comment of a damning consignment. Therefore, we cannot award this movie our Dove Seal.