on 31 December 2008
I think (though I don't want to speak for anybody else) that the main reason some people don't like this movie is because it defies traditional moral and movie logic - there really is no moral compass here. What happens to every character is almost totally random, good deeds often results in terrible consequences and and bad deeds can go ahead unhindered - in this sense it is much truer to life, but it makes disturbing cinema where we are so conditioned to see heroes be pushed to their limits but ultimately triumph and evil doers be punished by those who suffered most at their hands. Themes of chance and determination/fate and the crossing over of unavoidable lines of force or action are the themes of this film it seems - made most vivid in the coin toss scene with the shop assistant.
The abrupt ending threw me for a loop the first time as well - annoyed me and frustrated me.... but hell it also made me think about what I'd seen and that's something not many movies do - sending you off with a friendly cinematic, cathartic pat on the back. And the more I thought about it the more it seemed right, to tie everything up neatly at the end would undermine the very idea of movie itself.
Be prepared to think about it a bit.
The Coen brothers should be given an award simply for the perfectionism of their casting, in virtually every film they make.
There are at least three performances in this darkly obsessive film that are the equal of any from the last few years.
Josh Brolin is exactly right as the rough-round-the-edges `good guy` Llewelyn Moss, who finds a pile of money he intends to hang on to.
Javier Bardem is exceptional as the very bad guy Anton Chigurh, an amoral psycopath who nevertheless lives by his own perverse `moral code`, who sports an evil haircut and a wide scary mirthless smile. This actor was (as the interviews in the excellent Extras menu tell us) awed and delighted to work with the Coens, and his gratitude shows, in spades. It`s a great contemporary study in deadly-smooth, grimly droll reptilian malignity.
The great Tommy Lee Jones - who, as actor or director, can do no wrong in my book - is the grizzled `good cop` Tom Bell, who`s seen it all, and is nearing a retirement he appears to both long for and dread.
But there`s also Scotland`s own Kelly MacDonald as Brolin`s sweet but quietly tough wife Carla, executing a perfect Texan accent, and Woody Harrelson as a slightly slimy hitman who is, as it were, hoist by his own petard.
It`s good to see the wonderful Barry Corbin (so good in cult TV series Northern Exposure) as Tom`s equally grizzled brother Ellis, and Tess Harper as Tom`s good-hearted wife.
This is a film to watch more than once or twice, if only for its terrific set of performances, as well as its superb overall design, moody photography, and typically effective script by the Coen brothers, from Cormac McCarthy`s novel. (Incidentally, surely it`s about time for Cormac`s Nobel Prize...?)
It`s gory, it`s intermittently violent, it`s bloody - but none of it is either excessive or gratuitous. And Tommy Lee Jones`s sheriff speaks for the forces of sanity in his all too few scenes, bemoaning the new-style criminals who are bringing a nastily new type of crime to his patch. As he says: "Who ARE these people!" He also refers to Bardem`s character Chigurh as `a ghost`, which is as accuarate a description of the man as anything. I just hope that, if ever I see a ghost, he`s nothing like Chigurh.
In its own weird way, a great movie.
on 21 April 2008
This Oscar winning film is based on an unusual 2005 novel by American author Cormac McCarthy and is very faithful to the book. Beautifully brought to life with stunning cinematography, inventive direction, some great set pieces and, for the most part, realistic acting. I say for the most part because the main villain, played by Javier Bardem (who also won an Oscar) is like a malevolent phantom; a creature of pure evil, more like the Devil than a person. His nightmarish performance is the best part of the movie - every time he is on screen he chills and fascinates in equal measure.
The film is a modern day Western, set in 1980 on the US / Mexico border with a plot so simple it's not worth mentioning. The action is viewed from the perspectives of the three main characters; the psycho Bardem, a world-weary (and philosophising) Sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones, and a man who gets himself into a heap of trouble, played by Josh Brolin. Although told at a slow pace, the first 2 thirds are very compelling, mostly due to the well-worked set-pieces and the ever-menacing presence of Bardem. The movie does however become ever more strange with a somewhat modernist attention to detail on small things, while the big events get glossed over. By the final third, it has become so interiorised that the action is threatening to cease at any moment. And in fact that's what it does. The film ends when you least expect it to. This has infuriated and baffled many, but, in restrospect, I feel it finishes at just the right time. It's in keeping with the real themes of the movie, which are not spelled out, (and it wouldn't be right for me to spell them out either).
If I had to compare this film to other Coen Bros films; the first two thirds are like Blood Simple and Fargo whereas the final third is more like Barton Fink (i.e a bad dream!). Not everybody's cup of tea, for sure, but like I said, I loved it.
on 24 April 2013
The film is about the nature and consequences of evil. It resembles Shakespeares play 'King Lear' which was also a meditation on mans revolt against nature, and the evil it creates. The film begins with wide angle shots of prairie land, this vast, silent force of nature much as it must have looked at the beginning of time. There are three protagonists, Bell the sheriff, who is the helpless narrator. the other two Chigurh, a psychopathic killer and Moss, a cowboy. During the film the three all comment on the inevitability of whats coming in the future.
Moss, leaves a wounded man to die in the desert. His consience leads to his destruction by a drug cartel. His behaviour is not malevolent, but his selfishness results in the death of innocents; unforgiveably his wife, a driver, a hotel proprietor.
Chigurh, almost a cartoon character, a remorseless killer with warped morality, killing anyone who obstructs or offends him. His evil is magnified by his pleasure in unsettling his victims.
Sherrif Bell has lost his nerve. He has seen too much and is haunted by the fate of his relations who were lawmen. He fears for his future,and doesn't understand the evil surrounding him. He ultimately chooses to live and resigns from his job.
The silence, which is a backdrop throughout the film, is interrupted by modern life, first Chigurh, then Moss. Both are disturbers of nature and their conduct leads them finally to destruction, both in turn possess the drug money, and lose control of their own destiny. We don't see Chigurh's ultimate fall, but we see the beginning of the end in the car crash.
Bell decides to leave his job and choose life after what may have been the defining moment of his career. He revisits the Moss murder scene, after being informed the drug money hadn't been recovered.He enters the apartment after realising Chigurh was or had been in there. He relaxes when it appears empty, but then notices the air vent cover has been removed, then realises Chigurh is still there, probably with the money. He walks away, out of the dark apartment into the bright light of the vehicle headlights.
The ending , when he has retired, explains his reason for resigning; He describes two dreams he had. The second, he speaks of his sense of getting old. His late father, younger than he himself now was, riding ahead on a horse with a lamp. Into the darkness. He expected to catch him up ahead. This is an allegory to do with his father who was killed. The last thing said in the film, by the sherrif was 'I woke up', and the film ends. He didn't want to die, he chose life. In this context 'woke up' may have a double edged meaning waking up from physically sleeping and waking up and realising that he had to retire, change his life, or he would end up like his late family.
One of the things that appeared to annoy many people is that there appeared to be no resolution to the film. In these terms, no Moss v Chigurh rematch or Bell v Chigurh. This is understandable after the outstanding hotel shootout scene which was the high point of the film. The question that should really be asked is, how could you possibly follow what has previously happened in the film. At the time of publishing his book masterpiece,'Smileys People', the author John le Carre was asked why he hadn't detailed any subsequent meeting between Karla and Smiley. he said words to the effect that it would have been impossible to write. I think the same sentiment could be applied to this film, how could you add more to this film, superbly acted throughout, great storyline with deeper almost supernatural undercurrents. Watch it again. This is fabulous stuff, a film classic.
on 17 November 2015
This is one of the best films I’ve seen for a long time. The acting was superb. The three lead characters were clearly defined and very different. Javier Bardem as the psychopathic multiple killer Anton Chigurh was quite outstanding. Almost every time his face changed expression, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The story basically is about a man finding a suitcase full of money and deciding to keep it. Simple, straightforward stuff. Almost every scene builds up to a blood stained climax or a narrow escape. The minor characters are well done too. Mrs Moss played by the lovely Kelly Macdonald was charming and Woody Harrelson was excellent as a rational hitman. My only problem with this film is the ending which lacked resolution (as others have pointed out). In one way, this is not important - there was never going to be a ‘happy ending’ and justice was never going to be done. In fact a happy ending would have been out of place and probably ruined the ‘existentialist’ message of the film – which seems to be ‘life is a bitch, get on with it’. Be that as it may, I was left unsatisfied at the end, which may reflect more badly on me than on the film. All the same, because of the sustained brilliance of the direction, script and film making, I would strongly recommend it.
I normally hate slow films. If I say that a film is ‘slow’ then I normally mean that I’m completely bored with it. Or, if it’s deliberately slow then it’s probably just being pretentious with ideas above its station. ‘No Country For Old Men’ is slow. And I really enjoyed it.
It’s a little hard to describe. I guess the basic plot is that Josh Brolin finds a suitcase of money in the middle of a drug deal gone wrong and decides to keep it. The only problem is that there’s a complete psychopath on his trail who will stop at nothing to recover what is his (think ‘The Terminator’ but with a worse haircut). Tommy Lee Jones plays the local Sherriff on both their trails and, using the Terminator analogy, it’s just a question of which one gets to Brolin first.
It’s quite a long film with minimal dialogue. A lot of the time you’re just watching the character as he goes about his (ill-gotten) business. When there is dialogue it’s that kind of ‘Tarantino-esque’ rambling monologue which makes you wonder where it’s going and is supposed to heighten the tension and show us important information regarding the character talking. This can sometimes get annoying, but, again, it works here.
Yes, it’s slow, but it’s brilliant (and nasty). Be prepared for some pretty grim and dark moments thrown in there and it certainly isn’t a ‘feel good’ epic, but if you’re in the mood for something a little less ‘action-packed’ than your average Hollywood blockbuster (and a lot nastier) then definitely give this one a go. It won’t be for everyone and your current mood will probably dictate how you feel towards it afterwards.
on 3 February 2014
I'm generally a big fan of the Coen brothers and the motion pictures that they create, and this is a great example of why. I consider this to be one of the best films by Coen brothers. On top of that, I consider this to be one of the best films ever made. The story revolves around the main character called Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) as he stumbles across abandoned pickup trucks, multiple dead bodies and two million dollars in cash just sitting in a briefcase, just waiting to be taken. Without thinking things through, Llewellyn takes the money and makes a run for it, however he does not know that he is being hunted by an unstoppable force that goes by the name of Anton Chigurgh (Javier Bardem) Whilst Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is chasing Anton.
From there we have a story that is intense, brutal and surprisingly thought provoking. As a whole though, this is an action movie more than it is a drama and naturally if a drama has action I would prefer it if it focused on the drama instead of the violence because for me the story is what's most important. Surprisingly though, the large amount of action doesn't take away from the drama element of the film.
The performances by the actors and actresses are actually chilling because they are so good, especially the performance from Javier Bardem. Bardem takes on a role that is truly haunting and it makes you feel like you always want to be in his good books. There are multiple scenes that with Anton in them that truly stand out and send chills down my spine and truly make you feel scared. His voice is very deep and sounds just a little bit croaky which further adds to the tension of most of his scenes, some of the things he says are just confusing and odd but this surprisingly adds to the intrigue and mystery behind the character.
The thought provoking element of the film mainly comes from the ending, I feel that once the films finishes and rolls into the credits it leaves a lot of debate to be made and it really makes you think about what the ending means, and to me that is the sign of expert film making
on 27 February 2009
As another reviewer says: "I'm not sure that this is quite the masterpiece that some are declaring". I agree. I also don't think it works that well at a philosophical level or as an existentialist thriller, what it aims to be.
The apocalyptic source material clashes with the Cohens' stylish gallery of misfits and martians on earth. And clashes with what is left of the Cohens humor in this truly gruesome narration.
The "good" guy (who's really a misfit and a thief), while wounded, has to pay some kid good money for a clean shirt and a half bottle of beer. In the end, the monster Chigurh, also wounded, gets a clean shirt, and apparently sincere and heart-felt sympathy from a couple of teens. A good deed is what will damn Brolin's character. The unstoppable and unrelenting Golem Chigurh is never slowed down by a conscience.
But, in the end, actions and consequences, causes and effects, good or evil deeds, chance and fate, don't really lead to anything.
As if all the anarchy, violence and chaos that fuel McCarthy's tale finally preveiled on the Cohens' vision and their idea of the world. Why characters acted that way, what it all means, why the bad guy gets away in the end, it's not explained to the viewer. Possibly because the film-makers themselves don't have any answer. The intelligent, clever, stylish and often self-indulgent brothers are crushed by their attempt at a philosophical tale as the random victims are swept away by the bad guy.
on 8 November 2010
Being the arthouse cinema fan that I am, over the last 10 or so years I would occasionally watch a Hollywood movie for entertainment, but I gave up any hope of seeing anything truly artistic from that source. It was about time I was chastened for my arrogance, and sure enough, I came across 'No Country for Old Men' a couple of weeks ago. What attracted me was the title lifted from Yeats; I correctly guessed that it must have been the title of the book on which the film was based, but at that stage I had not yet read the book nor was even aware of its existence.
What a feast! A violent modern western on the surface; a dark and bitter existential meditation underneath; actors working their socks off; solid direction and camera work; a minimalistic soundtrack that is as un-Hollywoodian as they get; all of this works together and keeps one impressed non-stop.
The layered structure of the film is quite ambitious, but thankfully, the directors do not spell things out for the viewer. If anything, certain things were made less obvious than they are in the book, and that enhanced the overall impact. For example, it takes the full length of the film, including the paradoxical ending, to bring the viewer to the realisation that the protagonist of the story is Sheriff Bell - the least likely of the three candidates for that role. This realisation has quite an impact by itself, but it also takes care of the loose ends of the surface plot - not by tying them up in any logical way but by rendering them irrelevant, which is so much better. The film is about the sheriff, and as far as he is concerned, there are no loose ends left: he lost on all counts; the bad guy won. The book is rather more direct about matters like who got the money in the end, and after the film this certainly felt like a weakness: what is the point of trying not to disappoint the readers who do not get the point, if you know what I mean... To be fair, the book is not always direct, but the film is even less so. For instance, McCarthy pointedly avoided describing the deaths of Moss and his wife in gory detail (in sharp contrast to the overall style of the book); the death of the former is even narrated by a third party rather than directly by the author. The film goes further, merely implying both these deaths.
The tense scene where Chigurh and the sheriff appear to be standing at the opposite sides of a motel room door is not to be found in the book. There are several ways of interpreting what happened there, and each of the possibilities enriches the story in its own way. My guess is that the two characters are not actually present there at the same time and that when Chigurh calmly observes the flicker of light through the punched-out hole in the lock, this is in fact just an image in Sheriff Bell's mind - a visual manifestation of his fear, which we are given a chance to see as yet another hint at the fact that the sheriff is, after all, the main character of the story. Of course, this cannot be literally the image in his mind because the sheriff does not know what Chigurh looks like - but the viewer does...
A few more words about that infamous ending. I always like it when a film ends at an unexpected point, but here this old trick achieves so much more than delivering a parting surprise. Yes, the final sequence comes from the book verbatim, but unlike the book, the film is wide open at that point because of some small changes to the plot, so what the viewer gets is an anticlimax by the action genre standards and a knockout artistically. A character describing his dream is a staple of arthouse cinema, and here we get not one but two dreams, told to us by the downbeat Tommy Lee Jones, alone in the frame, in such a thick Texan accent that I had to rewind and switch on the subtitles. Everything falls into place, except for the things that, as it dawns on us, do not matter. And can there be a better punch line than "And then I woke up", followed immediately by the credits?
on 19 July 2010
The Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men is good as a cinematic and visual experience with a simplistic story line. For the most part the movie draws you into the characters. If you're into action/shooter movies then you get some of that in this.
However, the ending is a big let down.
After doing so well with the rest of the story line and script, the ending feels as if a dog came along and ate what should have been the ending.
There's no sense of resolution, everything is just up in the air, making the previous hour and forty five minutes seem like a moot point. A shame really because this is quite a good movie and has won many awards... when you watch it just don't expect anything particular.