#45 No Country For Old Men

(2007, Coen Brothers)

“The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure”

Four months I been doing this reviewing movies lark. I watch the movies, then say what I think of ‘em. Most Internet reviewers either examine brand new movies or look at terrible movies due to the ability to drag humour of it. Not me. I examine the supposed classics, and pick them apart. Some folks don’t understand that, but I got a duty to do. I gotta make sure these movies are as fit for human consumption as folk say they are. Sometimes this is harder than you think. For older movies it’s easier to tell if they’re classics. If they hold up in today’s strange world of explosions and drugs and near-hardcore sex scenes, then they’re classics. But these new movies are an entirely different breed. How can a film be a classic when it’s only 5 years old?

Take No Country For Old Men for instance. Directed by them Coen boys, Joel and Ethan, this is a tale of a weary old sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and the latest investigation he has to do. A man named Moss (Josh Brolin) has gone and got himself into a spot of bother, you see, stealing some money from the site of a literal Mexican standoff and fleeing. Now he’s got himself a tail, a man named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), one of the meanest bastards you’ll ever meet. Kills indiscriminately, y’see. Very dangerous man. Yep, that sheriff’s sure got a tough time ahead of him.

Truth be told, first time I saw this movie I wasn’t too impressed. Don’t know why, but just couldn’t follow it. But I wanted to like it, having enjoyed the Coens’ older work, and watching it a second time for this here review, I began to appreciate it. A very dark and moody film, this here movie ain’t pulling no punches. There’s no happy endings here, and everyone suffers. Now, this ain’t no Requiem For A Dream level of moodiness, you understand, just very pessimistic about the state of the world. And the Coens do a fantastic job of expressing this.

To bring home the tension of the cat-and-mouse shenanigans that hold together the plot, everything’s pretty damn tense. There’s barely any noticeable music score, putting us as the audience entirely in the shoes of the poor fella who’s been chased. Everything relies on the performances of the actors here, and boy, are they something. Josh Brolin does a fantastic job at carrying us through his scenes, but the real star here is Javier Bardem, who is damn creepy as Chigurh. Everything he does gives off a cold, calculating vibe, like you don’t know what the hell he’s gonna do next. His performance makes it easy to see why being stalked by him isn’t something you want happening to you.

The ending is also left completely open, meaning you can go wondering exactly what the hell just happened, and where you think these fellas are gonna go from here. It can seem a little disappointing at first, but ultimately it works. And while the Coens have gone and thrown in a whole bunch o’violence, it’s used pretty darn well, often ending long periods of tension, rather than the entire two hours filled with gruesome blood splatters that’ll keep you up at night.

However, it ain’t perfect. The movie was taken almost word for word from the novel it was based on, and as a result the structure isn’t really suited for a movie. Lengthy passages of exposition that made certain things make more sense can’t naturally be translated into the visual language of film, and it does feel like something’s been lost in translation. In particular, there are a lot of rambling scenes with Tommy Lee Jones that don’t seem to add much to the plot. Yeah, sure, they create a sense of the sheriff suffering from a troubled mind and questioning whether or not things were better in them good old days, but they do seem jarring in the middle of all the killing. The final scene especially feels awkward, and when the end credits began rolling I certainly felt disappointed that the film ended where it did.

No Country For Old Men is definitely an interesting experiment in storytelling, but ultimately at times it still stays fairly formulaic for the genre, and doesn’t feel enough like Coen Brothers movie to be truly effective. Personally, I don’t feel they make ‘em like they used to.

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem & Josh Brolin
Written by Cormac McCarthy (novel) & Joel & Ethan Coen
Produced by Scott Rudin & Joel & Ethan Coen
Music score by Carter Burwell
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Edited by Roderick Jaynes

Favourite Scene: Oddly, a seemingly out of place scene with Chigurh in a petrol station felt like the best scene, if just because it gave us an interesting look into his character.
Scene That Bugged Me: Moss’ death is highly disappointing, since it happens offscreen and it’s not entirely sure who’s actually responsible. Bit of a let-down really.

Watch it if: The coin said you should
Avoid it if: You think things were better in the good old days

Originally posted on Blogspot Friday 20 January 2012

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in 2000s, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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