Rates: * * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? I bought a bunch of favourite movies on blu ray and they arrived in the post.
After the cold blooded murder of her father, precocious 14 year old Mattie Ross hires a US Marshall to go after the man responsible. And insists on joining the pursuit; a perilous journey into the lawless wasteland of Indian territory.
The plot of this revisionist style Western is pure simplicity; there’s really not much more to it, beyond those two sentences. There’s a crime, stunningly depicted in the opening scene, there’s our posse of good guys (rounded out by a cocky Texas Ranger), and there’s our villains (the killer falls in with an outlaw gang), who are largely unseen until movie’s end.
But, much like a lot of the Coen Brothers, the pleasure of this is in a million perfectly crafted little details. The costumes and sets are traditional but distinctive, the film is shot on epic sized but spare locations in Colarado; these elements combine into a look that is stylised but at the same time muted, the blunt reality of life in this era well captured. And wonderfully well shot by Roger Deakins, who, in his sixties by the this time, demonstrates his mastery of the craft. This frontier feels lived in, rugged, beautiful and harsh.
The three main actors are all at the peak of their game. Hailee Stanfield is nothing short of sensational as Mattie, and her no-backward-steps showdowns with the men of the old west are hilariously inspiring (my fave is the bartering over her father’s stolen horse). Jeff Bridges is rock solid in a tailor made role, and Matt Damon has never been better as the self assured Texas sharpshooter, who can actually back up his braggadocio.
These three are surrounded by a flavourful collection of old hands and character actors (another Coens trademark), and the boys have written some zinging dialogue for them all. They clearly relish dropping old west slang into the lingo, and the film is peppered with references to ‘weighing’ decisions, and admiring people’s ‘sand’.
And the final section of the film, kindof like an epilogue, becomes unexpectedly emotional. These characters all had an impact on one another in a brief period, this little adventure left quite an imprint, and it is a melancholy note to think that they were not able to meet up again.
‘Time just gets away from us.’
My appreciation of this film has only grown over the years. I think about this ending, I think about this final line, all the time.
Things do not always work out like you think they should. And then it is too late.
Time gets away from us all.