True Grit: One of the Greatest Westerns Ever, I Reckon.

With their take on True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen didn’t remake the 1969 John Wayne film of the same name. And they didn’t “update” the film’s 1968 source material by writer Charles Portis. What they’ve done is make the best damn western since 1992’s Unforgiven. But the Coen’s masterpiece isn’t filled with brooding and extraneous landscape shots. In true Coen fashion, the two hours are stocked with dark humor, bursts of violence, Roger Deakins‘ masterful cinematography, and characters so well-crafted that no time gets wasted on unnecessary background stories. In one of the great surprises of the year, one of these characters is played by 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.

Young Hailee effortlessly steals the show from acclaimed veterans Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. She plays Mattie Ross, a girl whose father is shot dead by drifter Tom Chaney (Brolin). Because Chaney flees into Indian territory, the local authorities will not pursue. Mattie hires Deputy U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), a man with a merciless reputation – a man with “true grit.” Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Damon) is also on Chaney’s trail, for a murder he committed months previous in TX. And the great adventure begins.

Bridges plays Cogburn hardboiled as hell, without the character devolving into a goofy, tough-guy brooder. He’s filled with interesting contradictions: gruff marshal with the heart of gold, drunk mess who’s a competent lawman, constant heckler with a sensitive spine. All of this makes up another classic, quotable character for Bridges. Damon’s La Boeuf is the all-American Texas Ranger swollen with pride. His boasting makes him sound foolish, but he’s got the gunslingin’ chops to back up all the touting. Out of the plethora of colorful characters the Coen’s have penned over the years, True Grit‘s cast makes up some of the best. They all deliver dated dialogue in an obsolete, contraction-less language that comes off Shakespearean at times. I left the theater wishing people still talked that way.

Like every great Coen film, the tone of the film shifts flawlessly from comedy to drama to dream-like and back to comedy. At this point the brothers are masters and can play with tone like play-doh. Their shifts never feel clunky or forced. They can flip-flop between genres without question. The content and performances are accompanied by long-time Coen cinematographer Roger Deakins. Like previous westerns, True Grit has its share of stunning scenery, but it’s the dialogue-driven scenes where Deakin flexes his muscles. He makes watching Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Mattie sit around a campfire making fun of each other just as beautiful as a horse ride on a gorgeous Arkansas plain.

In what I think is a first for a Coen film, True Grit is genuinely touching. The third act contains a moment of such moving human strength that my eyes welled up. I’m a huge sissy/sucker, but I never thought the Coen’s would make me cry. Not because they lack the skills, hell no, because their films have stayed away from “touching” territory. And unlike the Coen’s previous work, True Grit is a straightforward film that remains within a single genre. It’s almost weird that the Coens made this film. But I’m glad they did. Go see it now or you will regret it, I reckon.

This review originally appeared on the Mishka Bloglin, where Patrick Cooper pees his name in the snow as Oh Mars.