True Grit got a lot of publicity because it was directed by the Coen Brothers, and starred Matt Damon and Jeffrey Bridges.
However True Grit was stolen by Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old girl who hires a US Marshall to avenge her father’s death. She displayed the perfect mix of naivety, loyalty and sheer balls to carry out the role. She stood up to grown men, saw death and earned the respect of two experienced law officers. Steinfeld really does a great job in leading the movie, often dominating the scenes she shared with Bridges and Damon.
That is not to say that the two men performed poorly. Bridges, as Marshall Cogburn, the wily vet with a checkered past, fulfills his role as reluctant mentor to Steinfeld’s Ross. He provides the small amount of humor in the movie, especially in witty repartee with Damon.
Damon comes out 3rd best in the movie, through no fault of his own. His role is simply smaller, but he does what he can. Bridges and he have a good chemistry between them, and Damon is a good youthful counterpart to Bridges’ old veteran.
The star of this movie in my mind is Steinfeld. It’s strange for the protagonist of an Old West, shoot-em-up movie to be a 14-year-old girl, but she steals the show.
Barry Pepper, of 61* fame, and Josh Brolin have small roles as the villainous counterparts to Bridges and Steinfeld respectively. Both do their job, though their screen time is quite limited. The Coen Brothers did a good job in focusing on the story and the character of Mattie Ross. It would have been easy to leave the book and frame the story around Bridges’ character or even Damon. That would have been for the worse, as Steinfeld’s strong performance would have been lost.