Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with "true grit," Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her "grit" tested.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Rooster Cogburn character's full name is Reuben J. Cogburn. Rooster is his nickname. His birth-date is 15 July, 1825. See more »
When Ned Pepper is pinning Mattie Ross with his boot in The Winding Stair Mountains, after the first pan down at Mattie and pan back to Ned you hear the director yell "Action". See more »
People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down and robbed him of his life and his horse and two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band. Chaney was a hired man and Papa had taken him up to Fort Smith to help lead back a string of Mustang ponies he'd bought. In town, Chaney had ...
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Drew Houpt is credited as "The New Duke", an apparent reference to John Wayne ('The Duke') who starred in the original film. See more »
This must be the least "Coenish" of the 10 or so movies of Ethan and Joel Coen that I have seen. At first impression it is a straight-forward adaptation of Charles Portis's novel, including the use of much original dialogue which is distinguished by its lack of crude language. It is not a remake of the 1968 film for which John Wayne got an Oscar for best actor, though Jeff Bridges has been nominated as best actor for his take on the same character, Rooster Coburn. I thought he mumbled too much, but was otherwise very impressive.
Several things stand out. One is the sumptuous production values – the 19th century frontier is painstakingly re-created and the rugged landscape captured. Another is the authentic dialogue, even though one of the characters, the vengeance seeking 14 year old, Mattie Ross (a very convincing Hailee Steinfeld) is wildly improbable. The story itself, the hunt for the father's killer, is told without too much contrived drama, though there are some suspenseful moments and a certain amount of bloody action. The film is also beautifully paced. Some may find the opening scenes in Fort Smith drag a bit, but they are essential to the realisation of the characters. As the search gets under way there is enough action to keep us interested.
The wild west is long gone and westerns are no longer fashionable, though the Coens did a successful modern version of one in "No Country for Old Men". The rugged frontiersman, of which Rooster is a shining example, is no longer a heroic figure. They were brutal times - justice was rough and public hangings frequent – and Rooster was no better than he ought to be. Yet he is capable of heroism, unlike his opponents (leaving aside Indians, who do not feature in this story).
The relationship between Rooster and Mattie evolves from service provider - customer to something more like father – daughter. At least you feel she is the sort of daughter Rooster could be proud of. But in the end he is too emotionally stunted to persevere and he slips out of her orbit.
Anyway, this is a very fine "late western" and very entertaining. But it reminds us that myths fade, and what was admirable 50 years ago may be semi-barbaric today. "How the West Was Won" is a bit like Bismark's sausages. Its better not to watch them being made.
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