True Grit’s greatest strength lies in its three protagonists, and the bickering, cantankerous relationship they had with each other. Watching Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and Texas Ranger LaBouef (Matt Damon) harangue each other, cowboy-style, for two-plus hours, would have been more than enough to make this movie enjoyable on its own, even if Jess Bridges does speak s though his mouth has been stuffed with cotton candy. Those who rent this movie on DVD may prefer to turn on the subtitles to avoid the headache caused by trying to figure out what precisely Bridges is mumbling. Young actress Hailee Steinfeld (inexplicably nominated for best supporting actress when she was obviously the main character in the movie) more than holds her own with the two more experienced actors.
This film is not without its set of problems. The action scenes are somewhat uninspiring. Worse, it is a little hard to get behind the revenge story. We understand that Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) wants to kill Todd Chaney (Josh Brolin) because he killed her father, but since we never get to see her father or her relationship with him, the only reason we are invested in the outcome is because we like Hailee Steinfeld’s character. We care to see her win, but not to see the villain, Todd Chaney, lose.
But by far the biggest issue I had with the film was the ending. I can’t review this film properly without saying a little about this minor crime, so beware. True Grit has a strong, satisfying climax, and then, instead of fading to black, inexplicably keeps rolling for five or ten more minutes, forcing us to watch a contrived scene involving a pit full of snakes that feels crudely tacked on at the last minute. The movie then flashes forward some fifteen or twenty years into the future. This ending is baffling, especially when you consider the ending of another Coen brothers film, No Country For Old Men. That film cuts off almost abruptly, having eloquently made its point. This ending doesn’t seem to know exactly what point it is trying to make. We didn’t need to see Anton Chigurgh as an old man at the end of No Country, and neither do we need to see the future fates of the characters in True Grit.