The True Grit remake brings back the genre of the Western with much success. One of the reasons it makes the transition is because it's set in 1878, meaning there wasn't a lot of need to modernize the film from its original 1969 version. Another reason is filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, who once again seem to have a hit on their hands. Yet, no matter the original film, the genre, or the filmmakers, this story wouldn't be the success that it is without its three stars.
It takes a great talent to hold your own against any actor with the caliber of Jeff Bridges, or Matt Damon for that matter. It also takes talent to step into a role in which John Wayne won his one and only Oscar. Audiences expect this type of performance from Bridges and Damon, yet they didn't know what to expect from newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
Mattie Ross (Steinfeld), at the age of 14, loses her father to murder by one of his hired hands, Tom Chaney. She travels to collect his body, but decides to make right by her father and bring Chaney to justice. He had made off with her father's horses, as well as some gold pieces. She ruthlessly wheels and deals to get the town clerk to pay her what the horses were worth, and uses the money to attract a bounty hunter.
Inquiring about possible bounty hunters, Mattie hears that a U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), has "true grit" and decides he's her man. She approaches Cogburn and asks him to help her, but he turns her down. This girl has true pluck, so she's not too dismayed, knowing she'll convince him eventually. She's then visited by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Damon), who has been chasing after Chaney for a murder committed in Texas. He believes he should team up with Cogburn, but the Marshal again turns everyone down.
Eventually Mattie breaks through the cracks in the armor, and Cogburn agrees to find Chaney and to take Mattie with him. When he and La Boeuf set off without her the next morning, she goes off and chases up with them. She corrects the spelling of the note Cogburn left behind, telling him it's "pursuit is futile, not fudel." The Marshal and Ranger fight, with the Ranger deciding to go off in his own direction, while Mattie and Cogburn pursue Chaney together.
The three cross paths a few more times during their efforts to capture Chaney, dead or alive, and end up creating quite a bond. It seems they are destined to fulfill this mission together. While it may seem they're only bound by one thing, their desire to capture Cheney, they're really bound by something else. It seems Cogburn isn't the only one to have true grit. Quite unexpectedly for the late 1800s, this 14-year-old girl has more real grit in her than most of the men she crosses paths with.
Because of that, the Coen Brothers needed to find just the right actress to play this role. They took a chance on an unknown, instead of going with a more well-known actress, who quite possibly would have been less capable in the role. That chance paid off. Steinfeld never breaks character for one minute. Every bit of this movie she is the vengeful daughter. Expect to hear her name quite a few times in the coming months, including on Oscar night. Minimally, she deserves a nomination. If she didn't have true grit herself, she could have never brought it to this character.