Jeff Bridges finally bagged his long-deserved Oscar for last year's flimsy Crazy Heart, but he's better in this far superior film, the Coen brothers' refreshingly straightforward and faithful take on Charles Portis's genre-bending Western novel from 1968.
Bridges takes on the guise of Rooster Cogburn (a role that bagged John Wayne his only Oscar in 1969), the grouchy, sozzled one-eyed marshal who is hired by Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a dogged, whip-sharp, pig-tailed 14-year-old girl, to avenge the slaying of her father by a no good dirty dog going by the name of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and his grubby gang (Barry Pepper's low-life "Lucky" Ned Pepper is particularly weaselly and memorable). The unlikely pair are joined on their bloody quest by Matt Damon's earnest, upstanding Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf. While Bridges's trigger-happy grouch is blessed with the best lines ("It'll be the biggest mistake you ever made, you Texas brush-popper"), it's Steinfeld's tenacious Mattie that's the heart of this beautifully filmed, by the cinematographer Roger Deakins, revenge drama. True Grit benefits from repeat viewings and unlike the Coens' baffling remake of The Ladykillers, this was a reboot well worth doing. The Coens have – like Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and Altman's McCabe & Mrs Miller – exquisitely captured the severity and melancholy of the old West.