Bleak, desolate and austere, No Country For Old Men set a gripping cinematic tone. Movies didn’t have to feel good to pack a financial punch anymore; feel bad film’s surfed the zeitgeist. Apocalyptic with an imposing sense of doom? Good! Collect your critical acclaim on the way out. We had There Will Be Blood, The Road, A Serious Man and The White Ribbon slowing pulses this time last year and we have been peppered with bone-freezing features since.

The Coen brothers must have enjoyed their sparkling take on the Western theme as the upcoming True Grit extols similar virtues. Whereas No Country For Old Men took splashes of the genre’s iconography, True Grit dives right in.

A re-imagining of the 1969 John Wayne classic, its portrayal of a drunken U.S Marshal helping a young girl catch her father’s killer has everything No Country had and more. Perhaps most exciting though is the return of the Dude in Wayne’s celebrated role. Jeff Bridges tows a solid line when playing a grizzly drunk, as the recent Crazy Heart displayed, and few can sport an eye-patch as convincingly as the 60 year old stalwart.

Alongside him in his first Coen picture, and arguably his first Western (well, good one), comes Matt Damon. Not the most obvious choice from the director brothers whose casting occasionally feels like a talent clique-corner for the well admired, perhaps, but Damon’s gradually trading a fine line in self-deprecation and good judgement (The Informant! didn’t set anybody’s world ablaze but it showed the still young actor has depth and subtlety beyond Bourne).

As with many trends in tinsel-town, genre films come in swathes and swabs, though, which is sometimes encouraging but often headache-inducing. Unsurprisingly, True Grit ushers through a few Westerns in its wake, and some are more Wild Wild West than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Cowboys and Aliens currently totters somewhere in-between with captivating ingredients.

Jon Favreau has emerged with credit from directing the Iron Man films and this looks to follow suit – a special effects-laden blockbuster starring James Bond and Indiana Jones that’s quite a coup on paper. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford share screen time as Cowboys and Indians are forced to buddy up in order to protect a town called Absolution from alien attack. Craig stars as a lone gunman sure to do a lot of frowning and Ford is a fierce Colonel, no doubt with a proclivity for sardonic one liner’s. Sam Rockwell also stars, probably with some form of mental illness.

But while Craig and Bridges make pretty composed Cowboys the leading light in stylish Stetson wearing is undoubtedly Johnny Depp. Following Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man of 1995 – a personal favourite – Depp rocks convincing headwear in David Koepp’s Secret Window. And if rumours are true he’ll also soon be sporting hat and mask for a remake of The Lone Ranger, Mike Newell (a man who seems to have moved on to big budget adventure of late with Harry Potter and the preposterous Prince of Persia but who once gave us Donnie Brasco and Pushing Tin) the name being thrown about to direct the revered remake.

Will The Lone Ranger marry both disciplines in stylish fashion? Who cares?! What’s more important is who will play Tonto?

By Ian Roebuck


Originally published in issue 23 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2010