For the more discerning cinema lover the western still holds a special appeal proved by the fact that Ethan and Joel Coens master class in the genre is packing cinemas and Monday nights RBC Film Club showing was no exception.
Based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel of the same name True Grit (2010) relates the story of 14 year-old Mattie Ross who sets out to avenge the shooting and killing of her father Frank Ross by his drunken low life employee who goes by the name of Tom Chaney, amongst other’s. The strong minded Mattie hires the one eyed fat whisky drinking US Marshall Reuben J “Rooster” Cogburn to track the outlaw who is now riding with the Ned Pepper gang across the Choctaw terrain. Texas Ranger LeBoeuf, who is pursuing Chaney for killing a State Senator, joins them on their manhunt.
Originally adapted as a film in 1969, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring the American icon that is John Wayne, a role that won him his only Academy Award for Best Actor, True Grit has now been resurrected by Joel and Ethan Coen. The “two headed director” wrote the screenplay, based more on the novel than the previous movie, edited under their normal alias of Roderick Jaynes and produced with a little help from a certain Mr Spielberg. The Coen’s version narrates the story from the prospective of Mattie Ross who in 1928, as an older churchgoing spinster, recounts her adventures. Marshall Rooster Cogburn is portrayed as a complex character who was an unsuccessful family man, a member of William Quantrill’s guerrilla band during the American Civil War and its hinted, that he was once on the wrong side of the law? The Texas Ranger LaBoeuf is a buckskin clad pipe smoking Texas Ranger who has been hunting Chaney for a cash reward for four months for killing the senator and his dog.
|The Texas Ranger.|
This western is pure entertainment from the start to the finish, it’s a film marked by its humour, its realism and its brutal social commentary. In my opinion its due to the brilliant cast and crew including long time cinematographer nine time Oscar nominated Roger Deakins, his eleventh film for the Coen’s. The soundtrack, based on 19th-century church music, is the 15th scored by another long-time collaborator Carter Burwell. There is no doubt that we will certainly hearing a lot more of Hailee Steinfeld, chosen out of 15000 girls for the role of the resolute Mattie Ross. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress she even outshone Jeff Bridges who made the part of Rooster Cogburn his own just missing out to Colin Firth for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Bourne Trilogy star Matt Damon plays the Texas Ranger and Josh Brolin who was in the Coen’s award winning movie No Country for Old Men (2007) plays the psychopathic simpleton Tom Chaney. The directing style is undoubtedly Coen brothers, with their attention to detail, the humour, the strong characters and their tremendous writing ability. It’s not before time that the brothers turned their clever genre skills to the best of all genres: the western.