3 1/2 Stars
The second filmed version of Charles Portis’s novel is a satisfying and offbeat tale about an aging lawman that responds to the pleas of a 14yr old girl to avenge the slaying of her father. Jeff Bridges is outstanding in the role that garnered John Wayne his only Academy Award back in 1969. However Bridges is a far better thespian than the ‘Duke’ ever was. He makes one-eyed tough old Marshall, Rooster Cogburn his own with a carefully crafted performance. That Bridges is able to make Cogburn’s arc into vengeance so seamlessly is a credit to the talent of the man breathing life into what is at first glance an easy role.
Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is sold as the budding young woman out for vengeance, however she is frequently upstaged by Matt Damon as a wily Texas Ranger with the odd name of La Boeuf. Damon rises to the level of his co-stars and turns in perhaps a career best performance, you won’t be able to take your eyes off him. Equally good (as usual) is Josh Brolin in the less showy role of villainous Tom Chaney, the man responsible for the death of the girl’s father.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, a frequent collaborator with the Cohen Bros, fills the screen with the kind of beautiful vistas the ‘Western’ genre has always been known for. His work here is Oscar worthy, most notably a moonlight shoot-out sequence that is at once stark and eerily beautiful. The Cohen Brothers continue to make excellent films without being constrained to any one genre. One of the years best films.
Director: Joel & Ethan Cohen
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
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