True Grit, a Coen western


Determined to hunt down and see her father’s murderer swinging at the end of a rope, Mattie Ross, a young and resourceful farm girl will travel through the American Wild West. Assisted by the US Marshall she hired and a Texas Ranger– chasing the same bandit and trying to double-cross her– this precocious heroine will plunge into a merciless masculine world, at the pursuit of retribution and adventure– an experience that will change her life forever.

“With True Grit, the Coen brothers have given the western back its teeth,” John Patterson wrote in The Guardian.[1] Considered both a box office surprise and success, this revenge western was immediately praised by the critics and the general public as well. Following No country for old men (2007), their previous cinematographic hit, the brothers are said to have open the way for the revival of the western genre. Thanks to its authentic scenery settings, shot in the Texan desert wilderness and its brilliant casting, the 2010 version of True Grit paid its respect to Charles Portis’ eponymous novel.

Indeed, after adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel (2007), this time the brothers took on a 1968 literary best seller, whose first screen adaptation rewarded John Wayne with the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his performance as Rooster Cockburn (1969).

Nonetheless, The Coens’ casting shed a new and refreshing light upon a brilliant plot, supported by genius performances from the main and second figures alike. In the leading role, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, aged thirteen when she made the movie, gave a cool-headed and measured interpretation of Mattie Ross, blowing away the memory of Kim Darby’s (1969). She was a revelation and the uncontested star of the Coen production. As for veteran actor Jeff Bridges who took over John Wayne’s eyepatch – that fitted him like a second skin – he was a natural, who, contrary to his young protégée, seemed to fear neither God nor man. He embodied such a convincing Reuben “Rooster” Cockburn – fat, alcoholic, with the reputation to be trigger-happy and as lawless as the bandits he pursues – that it was impossible to associate the role with its former occupant. Last but not least, Matt Damon was the real surprise of the crew. Throughout the movie, he entertained confusion as both Mattie’s lover and affectionate but clumsy big brother. The everlasting confrontation between The Texas Ranger Laboeuf and his co-actors increased the consistency of his character and fueled their triangular (chaotic, dishonest, violent but highly humorous) alliance.


On its official release date, True Grit made a straight entry to #3 at the US box office and is still considered the Coen’s highest grossing film, surpassing No country for old men, with $250 million made worldwide (2011). Though nominated for a plethora of awards, the film actually won very few, but its true victory resided in its popular success, as numerous families and western fans were seduced by this unusual Coen production.


TRUE GRIT  (2010)


Paramount. Direction – Production – Screenplay by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Narrated by Elizabeth Marvel; Music by Cartel Burwell; Cinematography Roger Deakins.


(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Original text from 1968. Running time: 110 MIN.

The Cast

Jeff Bridges. . . . . Reuben Rooster Cockburn

Matt Damon. . . . .Texas Ranger Laboeuf

Josh Brolin. . . . .Tom Chaney

Barry Pepper. . . . .Lucky “Ned” Pepper

Hailee Steinfeld. . . . .Mattie Ross


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