Jeff Bridges Face-Off: “True Grit”

The man (Dude?) has been rather prolific of late. I first saw him in Iron Man, where he played Obadiah “TONY STARK! BUILT THIS! IN A CAVE! WITH A BUNCH OF SCRAPS!” Stane, the bad bald guy who likes making money off of things that blow up. I have never, regrettably, seen The Big Lebowski, but that’s just a result of my slowness in watching Cohen brothers movies. (I watched No Country For Old Men only a couple weeks ago; it was excellent, excellent, excellent.)

Okay, speaking of the Cohens, let’s start with the good news: True Grit. Again I have not had time to tap the source material(s), either the original movie or the original-original book, but I did watch my roommate play Red Dead Redemption so I feel qualified to judge this 2010 remake on its modern Old-West aesthetic.

True Grit is truly a great movie. Or at least it’s a great Western, so take it with that grain of salt. Like 3:10 to Yuma, it captures the desperation, desolation, depravity, and — yep — grit of that period exceedingly well. And the Cohen brothers bring their signature flare for dialogue to the movie with much success. There are some real zingers being thrown around, mostly at Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger character La Boef (“la BEEF”), from the mouth of the heroine Mattie Ross, played beautifully by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Josh Brolin’s villainous Tom Chaney was an interesting turn given that I had just seen him as a (more or less) white hat in the Cohen’s other sorta-Western No Country. Bridges plays the aging U.S. Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn with so much crust and gristle you can’t help but wonder how he can even move. You take turns watching his skill with awe and feeling profoundly sorry for his sadly obvious, though slow decline.

The three actors — Steinfeld, Damon, and Bridges — are just excellent. The dialogue is twangy and snappy. The cinematography is gorgeous. The plot zips along and has just the right touch of a bittersweet ending. The violence — another Cohen hallmark — is quite jarring once you remember that this is actually a PG-13 movie. How many of those feature a guy getting his fingers chopped off, then left on the table?

Rating: 89%

Go see it in theaters.