When her father is murdered, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) heads to town to pick up his body and settle his affairs. Headstrong and fearless, Mattie is hellbent on bringing her father's killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), to justice and seeks out a US Marshal who she can pay to do the job. Despite his initial reluctance, grizzled, booze-sodden gunslinger Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) agrees to track Chaney, but initially resists Mattie's attempts to tag along.
Also on Chaney's trail is pompous Texas Ranger LaBouef (Matt Damon) who forms a fragile alliance with Cogburn. As Mattie uses her own guts and guile to assure herself a place on the hunt, the three take off on a dangerous and bloody journey that will teach the youngster the true cost of justice.
Not so much a remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western classic but rather a more faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis book both are based on, True Grit is another idiosyncratic triumph for the Coen brothers. A slow-burning tale peppered with outbursts of brutality, the Coens' latest certainly is gritty and bristles with exceptional performances.
Oscar nominated for his larger-than-life portrayal of Cogburn, Bridges wisely steers clear of Wayne's iconic interpretation of the lawman, opting to create a more wild and woolly version of the cantankerous character. While Bridges' performance is great fun, his young co-star Steinfeld steals the show as the no-nonsense Mattie.
It's also refreshing to see Damon as a preening dolt rather than the hero of the piece, and there are memorable contributions from Brolin as the curiously non-villain-like Chaney and the aptly named Barry Pepper as dentally challenged outlaw Ned Pepper.
Not unlike Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, True Grit is very much an anti-Western that deconstructs the goodie vs baddies heroics that had typified the genre. Emphasising the terrible cost of violence and the price those involved pay - whether they be lawmen or outlaws - True Grit is an absorbing and surprisingly moving tale that sees the Coens continue their impressive creative streak.