This story begins with a narration; a woman reminiscing about when she was a child and how she hired a US marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to hunt down and kill the man who murdered her father. We then quickly go into flashback and the hunt begins, with Texas ranger LaBoeuf joining Cogburn and the girl on their quest.
Best you know now that the hunt takes a while before it begins. And that it begins at a slow pace. And that it generally keeps a slow pace throughout. The Coens are in no hurry to catch the killer; they are more interested in the posse following after him; how they interact with each other and, consequently, what we learn about them - information we retain until it matters.
This is not an action film as some people who criticise it seemed to think before watching it. The Coens like characters. They like to put them in close-up and have them snipe at each other. And they like beautiful wide shots. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is perfect as always and needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. The film is very true to the book upon which it is based and the book perfectly suits the Coen's style.
When the periodic action does come in the style of a set-piece, it is masterfully handled; always with tension and panache, sometimes with humour, only once with extreme violence. But you are aware that conversation is allowing action to intrude, often briefly, rather than the other way round
The best thing about the movie was the acting of Hailee Steinfeld who plays the determined 14 year old girl, Mattie Ross. You hang on her every word in the first part of the movie as she pushes it single-handed with her crisp, confident delivery and amusing refusal to be fobbed off or cheated by anyone.
Matt Damon really shines as the windbag ranger from Texas; a character you can really believe in and laugh at at the same time.
Jeff Bridges as the one-eyed drunken marshal, Rooster Cogburn, is great as he always is, but be warned, his southern accent is so strong and he mumbles so much its often quite difficult to understand what he is saying. Being from the UK I missed a lot of his best lines, but it never hinders comprehension of the plot which is as basic as they come anyway
The minor parts are all played well, especially the villains, but don't expect too much screen time from them. The opening narration makes clear that the whole film is from the girl's point-of-view. We aren't going to see any bad guys until she does, and then, only what she sees and knows.
In summary, be prepared for a beautiful-looking, slow-moving, well-acted, dialogue-heavy, often quirky Coen Brothers Film. Above all be prepared for, what is, in the end, a truly moving story. For it is not until the last 10 minutes that I realised what it is really about and I wondered if I should have known it all along. Like the characters I became so wrapped up in the importance of the quest to the exclusion of everything else. At the end of the movie I was reminded of the John Lennon line 'life is something that happens to you when you are making other plans.' Just like that line, this film has stayed with me.