The film is an affectionate, snow-globe-like re-creation of the West, both a tribute to a forgotten genre and a comment on it. And it all works beautifully, featuring some of their most heartrending moments. There’s a reason why this is their biggest box-office hit to date.
Cogburn rides with Mattie all through the night to the nearest town on her horse. That is until the horse dies from an exploded heart, then Cogburn carries her in his arms. It vaguely recalls the river sequence in The Night of the Hunter... It’s otherworldly, it’s touching, it’s like nothing else in the Coens’ body of work. The sequence gets at the core of True Grit. It’s just Mattie, Cogburn, and the blurring landscape around them. The Coens are lyrical when they play it straight.