You could be forgiven for believing that this year’s Coen Brothers offering is the spiritual sequel to No Country for Old Men. With a marketing campaign focused on top billed names Bridges, Damon, and Brolin, I was quite surprised to learn the protagonist is actually a 14 year old girl – played superbly by Hailee Steinfeld. In fact, the movie has far more John Ford than Clint Eastwood. This is the Coens’ version of the classic western and the result is a terrific trip to the picture show. While it stops short of being wholesome, this is the kind of popcorn flick that a whole family can, and should enjoy together.
It is one of those baffling things about Hollywood when someone like Josh Brolin gets top billing with only some 15 minutes of screen time – while Steinfeld, who turns in an Oscar worthy performance and is in every scene of the movie, gets relegated to the small print. Actor contracts aside, Jeff Bridges deserves his name as big as it can go. If he had been overlooked by the academy last year for his performance in Crazy Heart, there would be no doubt about him receiving his award this time around. Even so, you’d be no fool to place a tidy wager on him going back to back (John Wayne won the award for the same role in the 1969 version). Look for another likely statue for DP Roger Deakins who has been nom’d 8 times without an Oscar win. His beautiful cinematography is at least partially to thank for the film’s brilliantly formal feel. The Coen Brothers have delivered a very enjoyable classic western and a must-see for the holiday season.