As they venture out in search of outlaw Tom Chaney (Brolin), the tale develops more as one of the hero characters surviving together than the villains taking over with their evil power (as with Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men).
Mattie Ross does have a vengeance to track Chaney and LaBoeuf and Cogburn have their reasons too. It’s their job and they want the money.
Each character is a hero in his or her own right and not in ways you would expect. Cogburn cares for Ross more than a man with such a hard shell would let on and when she becomes the one in a close encounter with Chaney before anyone else, it wasn’t an expected plot twist.
The presence of LaBoeuf’s character weaves in and out of the storyline, but I knew he would always show up again and (to add to my admiration of Matt Damon — even as a fictional character) save the day.
He manages to do so even with a bit of an accident prone curse and Cogburn can do it all even after drinking a pint of whiskey. Cogburn can only see out of one eye and LaBoeuf is dragged by a horse and bites off part of his tongue. (Matt Damon explained in an interview that he wrapped a rubber band around his tongue to perfect the Texas Ranger’s lisp).
In addition to their own weaknesses, the trio encounters the dangerous gang that rides with Chaney, bad weather, snakes (a terrifying scene for me especially) and gunfights.
Most of all True Grit is an adventure each of the characters needed to take to grow apart as much as it brought them together. While Chaney seems to be the motive behind all their travels, he actually plays a very small role.
Even if your expectations of True Grit were completely opposite of mine, it won’t disappoint. People in the theater laughed, gasped (oh gosh, the snake scene!) and in their silence I like to think they were in awe, just like me. Well done, Coen Brothers, well done.
I also enjoyed this article about the film and its development by Joel and Ethan Coen: