Sunday, December 09, 2007

No Country For Old Men

There are several reasons I'm a huge mark for movies made by the Coen Brothers. The audience can usually count on: tightly written and well delivered dialogue, designed to move the plot along as much as--or more, maybe--than the action; the type of pacing that allows the movie to unfold, without fear of using silence and wide angles to tell the story effectively; and the use of humor or drama to tell the aftermath of a single decision made by the protagonist.

No Country For Old Men, adapted by the brothers from a Cormac MaCarthy novel, is being hailed a masterpiece. All the elements you'd expect--a flawed lead who makes a decision that dramatically changes the course of his life, a bad-guy-on-a-mission who will do anything to reach his goal and a character that serves as the moral compass for the audience, watching and commenting from the periphery--are in the film.

Josh Brolin is better than ever as Llewelyn Moss, who happens upon a drug deal gone bad that changes everything for him and several others. Sheriff Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is incredible in his role as social commentator. But it's Javier Bardem, who plays assassin Anton Chigurh who is getting the most critical acclaim, and for good reason. His is a complex character that you hate yourself for rooting for.

But you kinda do.

The Coen film illustrates the cultural shift toward overt greed and materialism that took place in the early 1980s. Sure, we're used to capitalist businesses exploiting and manipulating for a buck or two. But the drug trade that kicked into overdrive during the 70s and 80s allowed individuals to function as a for-profit: bring in the smack on the cheap, keep overhead low and sell at a premium rate. The greed and violence that resulted changed our culture, probably forever. The US of A is no longer the country our fathers knew. And its fast paced, violent, greedy nature isn't for the weak.

That's what the Coen Brothers are highlighting with this movie.

While I really liked the film, I call it one step short of a masterpiece. There is a subplot involving [cough] Woody Harrelson that is unnecessary, and a small number of plot twists that are unbelievable in what is otherwise a very human and believable story. The audience I saw it with--including my friend Bobby, who wondered aloud if he could get half his admission price back--hated the ending. It is inconclusive, and vague at best.

But that's what life--and the stories that come out of it-- is, sometimes.


Donutbuzz said...

Masterpiece or not, I know I've gotta see this now. Thanks, FG.

(FWIW, Fargo is still my personal favorite of theirs.)

Evil Twin's Wife said...

We're big Coen bros. fans here. Faves are "Raising Arizona" and "O Brother". I concur with DB that "Fargo" is truly great. I'm sure we'll see this one when it comes around on Netflix. Thanks for the critique.

JDB said...

Saw it this weekend and really liked it. I agree that it's a little short of a masterpiece. I liked the ending, but there was a little bit of "WTF?!?" about parts of it.

And, as for Woody - according to the Wiki entry on the novel (or the movie, I can't remember), there's a sort of sidebar about the murder of a federal judge in Texas that's not in the movie. The killer? Woody's dad. How's that for a small world?

Buzzardbilly said...

I love the Coen Brothers. I really can't wait to see this movie.

Didn't conspiracy theorists think that Woody's dad was also one of the 'three tramps' in JFK Assassination lore? I'm pretty sure they did. Apparently he was a big-time criminal.

Meanwhile Woody's taking a bath in a creek with Owen Wilson in South America. Yeh, that's gotta be great for rehab...hanging with Woody. LMAO

Stanton said...

I see about one movie a year at the theater. This one will be it. Joel and Ethan are GODS!

And get over the non-ending. That's the way life is sometimes.

The Film Geek said...

Be sure and let me know what you think of the movie, Stanton. And by the way, I really liked the ending, and I agree. That's what life and it's stories are sometimes.

Anonymous said...

But I paid good money to see a complete movie. If I wanted to see anything less I would to have gotten a porn and watched the first 5 minutes and been complete.

The Film Geek said...

Hiya Anonymous Bob (Please, please! use that name from now on. Anonymous Bob is so cool a name.) Listen, I hear you, and your porn example is a really good one. Because as Stanton and I said, we're talking real life here, and that's what real life is like. Much like your being finished with porn in five minutes! It's just the way it is, man.


Elvis Drinkmo said...

I love the Coen Brothers' movies. In fact. I just watched the Big Lebowski a few weeks ago and thought of you. Great movie.

But my favorite is still Raising Arizona.

The Film Geek said...

It is a great movie, Elvis. And we share our Coen favorites. Mine is Raising Arizona, too.

crystal dawn said...

Saw No Country yesterday and I agree not masterpiece but almost. As for real life, the ending was definately appropriate. Not all movies have to follow the standard fare, and is one of the main reasons I don't watch very many of them. Two thumbs up for this one! :)

Stanton said...

OK, I just got back from seeing "No Country..." Like most Coen Brothers movies I don't think you can judge it after one viewing. I'd like to see it again, but will have to wait for the DVD. If it had been made by lesser mortals I would say it is a masterpiece, but for the Coens it's merely great.

I disagree about Woody Harrelson's character: It was a necessary narrative device but I'll will admit that the way he was introduced and removed was a little odd.

I also disagree with lots of people about the ending: It was inspired! I can't imagine any other way to end it. Just brilliant.

I thought that the main character (Anton Chigurh) somewhat resembled a blogger that I know: A big guy with longish hair and kind of charming, in a serial killer sort of way.

The Film Geek said...

I can't stop thinking about this movie, Stanton! I'm glad you made it out for a viewing.

Can I expect a hot dog review out of the trip? I've never had a dog from the theater, but I'm always tempted just because eating a hot dog at the movies seems a little unusual. And speaking of unusual: I was at the movies in Columbus this past weekend, and they have a beer concession! Very, very odd...

Back to the film:

You'll see from my post I agree with you about the ending. I thought it was terrific also, and refused to sell out to an audience that expects routine and formula. I can't for the life of me understand your point about Woody's role. If his character was removed from the movie completely, nothing really changes. Aside from some minor information you get from the meetings he has with drug lord and then Broilin's character, I can't see his relevence. Tell me what I'm missing.

And about your comparison: LOL!

Stanton said...

I think Harrelson's character was required to give a little explanation of Chigurh's evilness. That he didn't reveal too much was a plus for me. I haven't read the book but I'd be willing to bet that it had a full explanation of why he was so evil and Woody's character probably revealed more about how he knew him so well (like how he used to be in the Green Beret's with him in 'Nam or some such foolishness). It would have been out of character for the Coen's to reveal so much - they seem to respect their audience's intelligence more than that. Part of me would like to know more about him, but I also like having things left to my imagination.

If this guy had not shown up we would have been denied at least three good scenes in the movie, all of which advanced the narrative significantly. So I don't see him as a throw away character. His demise [spoiler alert] was also a chilling reminder of the ruthlessness of the killer: The non-chalance of Chigurh as he pulled the trigger on someone he obviously had some kind of relationship with was, well, chilling.

I do think that when and where he was introduced was a little odd, but that's how life is sometimes. And let me frankly and unapologetically add that if it's good enough for Joel & Ethan it's good enough for me: They have earned my deference.

After sleeping on this movie I still think it was amazing and wish I could see it again but, alas, I went on closing night at our theater. It will be on my Coen Brothers DVD shelf when it hits the market.

The Film Geek said...

OK, you've convinced me the character wasn't a total throw-away. He did provide some background that was interesting, and you are right that his demise did ramp up the villian-factor of the assasin. Perhaps it was the awkwardness of Woody's insertion into some scenes that I disliked. I did enjoy him getting shot!