Ah, the Coen brothers. Purveyors of some of the most memorably bizarre (and fantastically named) characters in movie history. From Barton Fink to Llewelyn Moss, the Coens have an innate ability to draw phenomenal performances from pretty much any actor they so choose: with the stunning No Country For Old Men alone, they turned Javier Bardem into an Oscar-winning star, exposed Josh Brolin’s huge talents to Hollywood at large, and helped resurrect Woody Harrelson’s career.
So when you hear that their latest flick, the upcoming True Grit, will not only bring Brolin back to the big time after the nightmare that was Jonah Hex, but also star the fantastic Matt Damon (still woefully underrated as a ‘proper actor’ in my mind) and reunite the enigmatic brothers with Jeff Bridges, fresh off an Oscar win for Crazy Heart and whose last Coens outing resulted in The Dude , you’re likely to bound around with childish joy. I certainly did.
Based on a 1968 novel by Charles Portis set in the Old West, the story follows a 14 year-old girl (to be played by unknown Hailee Steinfeld) who wants revenge on the man who killed her father. She teams up with Bridges’ tough-as-nails-but-plagued-by-vices U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn to try and track down nefarious drifter Tom Chaney (Brolin), and the pair are joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Damon), also hunting Chaney for a different murder. It’s a good old fashioned bounty hunt, with the traditional strands of mutual respect, impossible odds and ulterior motives sure to play a big role.
But the Coen brothers are not to be underestimated. With a lead triumvirate of Brolin, Bridges and Damon, it seems likely that Joel and Ethan are ready to conjure up another piece of cinematic magic. The trailer on the big screen is a terrific sight, hinting at the traditional Coen collision between intense character development, gallows humour and bouts of graphic violence. It’s a style they mastered before a young pretender named Tarantino took the idea on, and one which they continue to be at the very top of.
So when True Grit hits cinema screens on Christmas Day of this year, make the yuletide season complete by watching the Coens’ newest offering. It, like Bridges’ grizzled lawman, is unlikely to miss.