Version: 2010; starring Jeff Bridges; Matt Damon; Domhnall Gleeson
Genre: adventure; classic
Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path.”
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel. Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.
I’ve been wanting to watch this film for a while, but you should know by now I’ve never been up to speed on pop culture. I have never seen the John Wayne movie made in 1969, so I cannot compare it to that or the book which (as stated) I have not read.
I could immediately see why this story is such a classic. The plot sounds like one that could easily be written today. One could also appreciate the detail and attention taken in the production of this movie. Much of the story’s tone is cold and austere, the characters are often grungy and hardened. This gave it a believable feel, taking place in a tough atmosphere and time period.
I was struck by such a quick-witted heroine only aged 14 years. She is forced to grow up far too early and therefore she is mature and capable. She doesn’t let any scoundrel monkey with her and isn’t shy in standing her ground. She makes for a very admirable character! The question isn’t whether she has true grit, but whether others are up to the task of staying faithful to their word even when the trail grows cold.
I wanted to give thought to the choice of background music. Orchestrated by Carter Burwell, much of the theme delineates from the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” At first I wondered why this choice was made. The sound fits well in the background, but what about that song connects it to the story? After thinking about it, I realized that although the film is not overtly religious and many of the characters do not recognize God (except through swearing), our young heroine Mattie Ross does come from a God-fearing family. Mattie is not after personal revenge per se, something the Lord commands us not to seek. But she is after justice which is a major attribute of God. After local officials refuse to take correct measures, Maddie pursues her case with a local bounty hunter. She wisely chooses a man she believes will not be soft on the matter of holding a wrongdoer accountable… Rooster Cogburn. He isn’t an easy character to deal with, but Mattie is not faint of heart.
It’s a good thing she isn’t timid because there are plenty of gorey scenes that aren’t so pretty. This isn’t exactly a family-friendly flick, and also contains some amount of swearing.
But overall, I was glad to be able to watch this movie at last and counted it as a positive experience. I would encourage fans of both the book and the previous film version to give this a try. No, Bridges isn’t John Wayne, but I believe he made the character all his own. I especially got a kick out of Matt Damon’s egotistical Mr. LaBoeuf.