Director(s): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Cast: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper. 110 min. Rated PG-13. Western.
Haven’t seen the original 1969 version, and I’m glad I didn’t, because I wouldn’t have wanted Jeff Bridges dominating performance as the one-eyed drunk Marshall/mercenary to be tarnished by John Wayne’s Oscar-winning act. As always, I adore the Coens’ serious drama work rather than their comedies, and this has every element of a perfect Western: themes of loyalty and gritty betrayal, in the backdrop of stunning panoramas, sprinkled with the Coens’ own sudden bursts of explosive violence. Steinfeld’s breakout performance astonishingly keeps up with both Bridges and Damon. If you don’t see this in a theater, you’ll miss the beauty.
(PS: Curiously, my favorite scene: the strong-willed, thick-headed teenage Mattie, going horseback across the river, almost drowning. How inspiring. God bless the Westerns.)