True Grit [Blu-Ray] Joel and Ethan Coen

True Grit [Blu-Ray] Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coen brothers' first western ― an adaptation of Charles Portis's acclaimed novel, which was also the basis of the late '60s John Wayne film ― is a beautiful allegory of the maturation of American culture through the actions of a 14-year-old girl. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld, in a breakthrough performance) takes as her responsibility the avenging of her father's death and looks for a man of "true grit" to help get the job done. Grizzled drunk Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) is ostensibly that man, but over the course of the film it becomes clear that Ross is the one in possession of the intestinal fortitude required. Themes of justice, the role of law enforcement and the clash between organized government (i.e., "the law") and Ross's sense of personal responsibility resonate throughout. It's beautifully shot by Roger Deakins (who gets a special feature tribute) and features terrific performances, including Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger and an unrecognizable Josh Brolin as the man who murdered Ross's father. It's another classic in the filmography of one of America's greatest film talents, who happen to come in the form of brothers. But looking at the extras on this DVD/Blu-Ray offering, you'll find no Coens here ― they've always been shy about such things. Instead, the spotlight shines on the discovery of Steinfeld and production details like costumes (Texas Ranger LaBoeuf wears buckskin because he's "a bit of a dandy"), weapons (replicas, because century-old guns tend to look 100 years old) and creating the late 19th century town of Ft. Smith. The most interesting is the context provided by a short about the career and influence of True Grit author Charles Portis, a fascinating journalist turned novelist who never achieved the respect many believe he deserves. True Grit is a terrific film, while the package is competent but not notably great. However, the performances, the great writing and the beautiful photography make it worth repeat viewings. (Paramount)