The story of True Grit is mainly a study of loyalty. Reluctant loyalty, it is true, but loyalty nonetheless. The reluctance that fuels the narrative belongs to the aging, cranky bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) who finds himself cornered one day by the extremely persistent Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a fourteen-year-old girl from Yell County, Arkansas, who is determined to avenge the murder of her father by the renegade Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Not only does Mattie hammer at Rooster until he agrees to go catch the killer, he is unable to dissuade her from coming with him, even into the wilds of Indian Territory, where they are joined in their search by a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Matt Damon). In the wilderness of the Choctaw Nation, this quarrelsome threesome develop bonds that are tested in violent conflict of a sort common in frontier yarns.
Very few people are designed to metabolize that. Most people, things go wrong and it breaks them down. In our world we can’t have that happen. I had a bunch of SEAL teammates killed in helicopter crashes. They didn’t do anything wrong, best pilots on Earth, best operators on Earth going to a fight that we know they can go win. They got shot out of the sky or the helicopter had a mechanical failure and crashed, killing everybody on that bird. They didn’t do anything wrong. If we had a cultural ethos where that went wrong so now I’m going to quit, we wouldn’t be able to do our job.