2010 Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld. Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
This version of the story of Mattie, the young girl who goes in search of the man who killed her father to bring him to justice, is more true to the book, more authentic in its depiction of the era in which it is set, and more gritty than the original.
This movie was AWESOME! I had severe doubts about remaking a John Wayne classic, but the Coen brothers actually improved on it. It would not surprise me if Jeff Bridges got a best actor Oscar nom for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, but the standout performance really was the young girl playing Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld). This one is my favorite so far this year in the “best adapted screenplay” category. The Coen brothers were smart enough to stick to not only the story but also the language from the book.
With a superior script, the next big challenge must have been to find the right actor to play Rooster Cogburn. Who would dare to think he could possibly do justice to the role that earned John Wayne his one and only Oscar? Filling the shoes of the larger-than-life, icon among icons in the role of the drunken lawman past his prime who is prone to shooting first and then neglecting to ask questions afterward is Jeff Bridges. Is Mr. Bridges up to the task? Absolutely! He is nothing short of phenomenal in this role. Any Oscar buzz he receives is well deserved.
Bridges’ Cogburn is nicely balanced by Damon’s La Boeuf, the Texas Ranger who is searching for the same man as Mattie. In the supporting role, Damon delivers a solid performance that meshes perfectly with both Bridges and Steinfeld. Just like Mattie, Hailee Steinfeld not only holds her own with the two big stars, but requires that they also deliver their best so as not to be upstaged by a little girl.
Actually, it isn’t really fair to compare this one to the 1969 John Wayne version. Movies and how they deliver their stories have evolved since then, and this one proves that, with the right care and attention, they can be infinitely better.
Cosmic Twins rating: Full Bucket