No Country for Old Men (2007)
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The new film from two of the best filmmakers working today No Country For Old Men shows the talents of the Coen Brothers on top form. After a couple of disappointments (Intolerable Cruelty had flashes of Coen genius but felt more of a Coen imitation than the real thing; Ladykillers had the odd funny moment but was the blandest film the brothers ever made, and there's just no excusing Marlon Wayans!) they knock this violent western drama out of the park.
More in the vein of their superb early mostly-serious efforts Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing (my personal favourite of the Coen back catalogue) No Country For Old Men is a slow-moving, character-driven masterpiece about uncompromising and uncompromised characters. It is very violent and bloody and not always for the squeamish.
Shot through with moments of humour these come, as in life, from real situations and observations so don't be fooled into thinking this will be the serious film with goofy-characters Coens of Fargo. No Country For Old Men is a tough, gritty story.
The unrelenting pace may take its time but you are gripped every moment. This is a thriller that genuinely thrills.
Javier Bardem gives the best performance of his career. And, yes, I have seen The Sea Inside and he in superb in that but here he is simply extraordinary. It is a portrayal of unrelenting evil, of true derangement, of a human being with no shreds of humanity that ranks at the very top of studied film psychopaths. And I say film not movie because this is not a clichéd character. This is not a character whose lunacy you enjoy over popcorn. This is one of the most frightening performances ever committed to celluloid. I felt truly nervous of what was going to happen every time he walked on screen.
Josh Brolin essentially carries the bulk of the movie and he is excellent in a role that challenges him. I have never seen him perform to this level and if Bardem didn't steal the film you'd be talking about Brolin all the way home. As it is this gives him a showcase for his talents that should see him get a lot more attention.
Tommy Lee Jones is used sparingly but to great effect. Sounding more like Michael Parks than ever before his scenes pepper the movie with a wearied view on a world he doesn't really like or understand to great effect.
I did find Stephen Root a little distracting as i have never seen him in a serious role before and he just looks amusing but he is in very little.
Roger Deakins' cinematography is breathtaking as usual and the Coens' script is superbly crafted. There are moments, almost asides from the main plot, that would be superfluous in most scripts and excised in most studio films but which work perfectly in the overall context of the movie as only the Coens can achieve. One scene featuring Bardem in a gas station is up there with the best scenes i have ever seen on film.
I have not gone into the plot here because I saw this film having not read Cormac McCarthy novel and knowing little other than the basic log-line - a man out hunting comes upon a scene of dead bodies, guns, drugs and money on the Mexican border and comes to the attention of both those behind the scene and a local world-wearied sheriff - and i think that's the way to see this film.
Go in knowing as little as you can but knowing at least this: this is a serious, violent, slow-paced character piece from the Coens. This is not a Fargo. If you are squeamish don't see it. If you have a short-attention span don't see it. If you only love the Coens for their fantastic comedies like O Brother and Big Lebowski and the comedy/thriller Fargo don't see it. But if you want to see an intelligent, superbly acted, powerful, beautiful cinematic treat that will remind you of the true power of cinema see it, see it, see it. It's a masterpiece. Bravo Ethan and Joel.
But I honestly did not understand this film. Im not saying its horrible but I will say I don't think it deserves the ratings it is getting. I personally rated it a 1 because I feel compelled to balance out the absurd over ratings it is getting.
What I saw was two men fighting over the same two million dollars. One who is somewhat good and obviously poor and the other who is this maniac psycho killer. Im not even sure its his money, how he knows about it or why he even wants it. None of that was clarified.
The good guy is running with the money the bad guy is chasing him the sheriff seems like he is supposed to be chasing them but doesn't really want to and would rather be some sort of hillbilly philosopher about the whole thing.
Then the good guy suddenly dies. The bad guy escapes death by the skin of his teeth AGAIN the money disappears and the sheriff retires but not becoming so philosophical that the whole movie just ends right there at his dinner table with him rambling on about some dreams he had.
Again I would love to figure out this movie.
I am a 40 year old movie buff Academy Award trivia expert I own over 700 movies I've been a member here for 6 years And I have a college degree.
Maybe I ate too many milk duds or something but it went right over my head.
If you are looking for a Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind MUST SEE A SECOND OR THIRD TIME TO FULLY UNDERSTAND kind of movie then go for it!
If you think you are going to see a Titanic, The Green Mile or Silence Of the Lambs kind of movie where the plot unfolds at a normal pace and doesn't make you search for answers and meaning then don't go see this thing.
Again, not a bad movie. Great acting, cinematography, pace.... the works... just incredibly difficult to understand after the first half.
In fact the first half is very good, suspenseful.. second half does not fulfill. Leaves you hanging and wanting more.
OK Im done. Thanks for reading.
To call this "film of the year" is to ignore that the world is a big place, and full of films that are a lot better.
This film simply didn't live up to the critical acclaim it garnered prior to release. Yes, Tommy Lee Jones does a good turn, as does Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem is somewhat unusual. The bleak countryside is well filmed and one of the reasons I cannot forswear multiplexes, and the violence also grabs the viewer's attention, but even that artifice wears off as the violence simply becomes monotonous.
The critics have uncovered nuances that separate this film from the classic Hollywood blood-and-guts formula, the most notable of which is that the lawman doesn't get the bad guy in the end. The trouble is that beyond critics counting angels on heads of pins, the Coens have retained hackneyed Hollywood clichés aplenty, the most egregious of which is the psycho who comes from nowhere, a plot device that dates back to the devil featuring in mediaeval morality plays and was debunked by the time Shakespeare was a lad. Hitchcock famously explained why Norman Bates became a psycho, and his suspense was all the more masterful as Anthony Perkins didn't look like a killer, just the Mummy's boy he really was.
With Hitchcock, you know something very bad is going to happen; but the suspense lies in not knowing what, by whom or when. After the first few minutes with Bardem's character, however, you know he will do the killing, you know how and you know it will be sooner rather than later. The only time the evil Chigurgh acquires more than one dimension is when people tell him he has a screw loose, but he just doesn't get it. Otherwise, he's as predictable as Terminator. We also have no idea where he learned his Rambo or Jason Bourne tricks, or how he gets to be better informed than the cops, and that is just one of many plot holes.
Bardem has acted much better before, as when he diversified from tongue-in-cheek macho roles years ago in films like "Carne Trémula" or "Segunda Piel". He successfully masks his native accent, but ends up sounding a bit too machine-like.
We can see Chigurh is after a pot of drug money, but just who the hell is he? Who are the "managerial" guys who put him in the picture? We are left to guess that Woody Harrelson is a hired man, but told nothing about his background, who does the hiring, or why. And why is Woody's character stunningly efficient one minute, in tracking down Moss, while allowing Chigurh to sneak up on him the next?
We are also meant to believe that a full-blown drug war can break out with just a lone sheriff on the case, without the feds getting involved. Yes, there is a lot of disbelief to be suspended in seeing this picture.
And then there is the foray across the border, which is corny and stereotypical to any one who has ever lived for a while in Mexico. Since when do norteño bands dress like mariachis? Since when do they serenade blood-stained gringo vagrants, for nothing, and in the morning? Since when do foreigners with bullet wounds get admitted to hospital, no questions asked? This has as much to do with the real Mexico as nachos and chile con carne. Could the Coens find not one Mexican adviser?
OK, so maybe this is beside the point, that the film is really all about a man getting too old for his job, as the very title suggests, but even here the plot is full of holes. It is all very well for the sheriff's uncle to wistfully say that a lot of nasty stuff has always happened on the border, but that ignores the fact that drug trafficking entails a dangerous mix of grinding poverty and instant fortunes which has made things nastier, all along the supply and distribution routes; Mexican towns once known for little more than growing avocadoes now have severed heads rolled across dance floors, and the country's equivalent of David Letterman was wasted in broad daylight.
Even that hollow and superficial take on drugs violence fails to grasp the nettle of centuries of brutality, of slavery and killing Indians, in making the U.S. what it is. And yes, it is possible to cover all these bases in a two-hour film. I will certainly look for them, and for answers to all the plot holes, should I ever read Cormac McCarthy's original novel.
For a sense of just how disturbingly omnipresent drug-fuelled violence is, and how it ends up breeding more violence, "La Vírgen de los Sicarios" did the job far better, but with Spanish dialogue and being made in Colombia, it never came to the attention of the critics who heap undeserving praise on the Coen brothers.
One of many completely implausible scenes: an arresting officer, defying any logic, turns his back on Chigurh. Chigurh, displaying the supple sinuosity of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist, or an orangutan, slips out of his handcuffs. This is done out of camera view, because for Bardem it would be impossible; thus the scene's implausibility. Chigurh then, in real time, strangles the young police officer to death on camera. This is an extended sequence. This is the payoff for "No Country for Old Men": watching one human being kill other human beings, in scene after scene after scene, using various weapons, including a captive bolt pistol usually used on livestock. Guess Chigurh couldn't get hold of a Texas chainsaw. This is a slasher flick for the pretentious.
Early on, there are well-done, if standard, chase scenes. A man outruns a car: not believable, but fun to watch. A pit bull chases this fleeing man down a whitewater river. The man reloads his gun at the very last moment (of course) and shoots the pit bull dead just as it is about to sink its teeth into the man. Later, in a hotel, a beeping transponder informs the killer where his prey hides. Your pulse may race and you may think that this is all leading up to something interesting. You will be disappointed.
Tommy Lee Jones, whose ear lobes appear to be metastasizing as he ages, wanders aimlessly through the film as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, delivering cornpone, homespun, cowboy poet ruminations that are more or less opaque in meaning. No doubt the film's fans are even now feverishly compiling a companion volume that decodes Bell's dreams and conveys their depth.
Woody Harrelson, late the bartender of the TV sitcom "Cheers," shows up for a completely pointless half-hour role that yanks the viewer right out of the movie. "What is Woody Harrelson doing here?" Some years back, some bored English majors decided that conventional narrative structure was not intellectual enuf, and decided to play games with narrative. "No Country for Old Men" plays these sorts of games. The viewer is invited to invest time getting to know characters who are eliminated from the plot in ways that convey no meaning and are not moving. The narrative flow is truncated and yet the movie keeps going; viewers ask themselves why the movie is continuing -- sometimes out loud, even in a movie theater -- this is supposed to be a deep, intellectual experience. It is not. It is merely annoying.
Other than bratty English major head games, pretty much the entire substance of "No Country for Old Men" is a series of murders and tortures committed by Chigurh, who may symbolize your high school's worst bully a bully so terrifying exactly because he targeted English majors. His victims are often courteous; their likability makes watching them be humiliated and then murdered an uncomfortable, and, given the film's structure, ultimately pointless exercise. Not only are the Coen Brothers torturing their characters, they also torment their ticket-buying audiences.
Chigurh's nice victims are often poor, rural, Southern, whites, the kind of people often not featured as positive, lead characters in Hollywood entertainments. They are often villains witness films like "Deliverance." Here they are murder victims. Chigurh is associated with Mexicans, part of a rising "dismal tide," as one Anglo character puts it. No matter how you feel about immigration, you may find this association of Mexicans with a rising tide of evil to be offensive.
The film's boosters insist that the movie offers three deep and shocking lessons: life doesn't always follow a neat narrative structure; evil often triumphs; and the old days were more peaceful and, nowadays, things are getting really bad. In truth, everyone walking in to the theater already knows the first two "lessons." No one needs the Coen brothers to inform him that life doesn't always follow a neat narrative structure, or that evil often triumphs. We expect filmmakers, and all artists, to offer us a more substantial thesis. As for the third "lesson," that the old days were more peaceful and things are getting really bad today -- have the Coens, or Cormac McCarthy, heard of Attila the Hun, or any number of other less-than-peaceful and courteous personages from our common human past? One might well be dubious about "No Country"'s "lessons." Visit internet discussion boards devoted to this movie, and you will find fans asking, not "What is fate?" or "What is the role of a good man in a bad world?" but questions like, "If Hannibal Lector and Anton Chigurh were locked in a room, who would come out alive?" Given such reflections, one is safe in concluding that the appeal of this film is its emphasis on graphic violence, rather than on any more advanced intellectual or artistic merit.
"No Country for Old Men" shares with other wildly overrated movies, like "Pulp Fiction" or "Collateral," a ludicrous setting in which criminals engage in wild shootouts and murder sprees lasting for days and days without any noticeable effort on the part of law enforcement to put a stop to it. NCFOM takes place in an alternate universe where an insane madman can travel across Texas murdering several people a day without the slightest hint of the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals, Texas Rangers, or any other authorities lifting a finger to stop him. The only cop who seems to be on his trail is an aging small town sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones who doesn't actually try to catch him but just passing amiably through life making philosophical reflections on evil.
This movie has no interesting or sympathetic characters. Our supposed "hero" only gets in trouble because he commits an unbelievably stupid and selfish act -- stealing $2 million in cash from a drug deal gone wrong in which several people have already been murdered. Does he think no one will come after him? Then he compounds his idiocy by returning to the scene of the crime. Why should we care what happens to him after this beginning? He has what appears to be a very nice, likable girlfriend, whose life (along with his own) he endangers -- for what? Some blood/drug money that if the drug dealers don't kill him for taking, the cops will bust him for spending. Stupid. Besides which, the character has no backstory, no interesting qualities. He is a cipher.
The character of "Chigurh," over which all the critics are having such orgasms, might as well be an extraterrestrial, he bears so little relationship to actual human life. He appears to be in his late thirties -- killing people at a rate of two or three a day, as he does in this film, he must have murdered close to 10,000 in his adult life, without ever being apprehended. This man is almost on a par with Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot, except instead of killing people en masse as they did (using subordinates, secret police, and soldiers to do the dirty work), he appears to do every killing himself, many of them with some kind of oxygen tank (how clever, and how convenient it must be to lug around an oxygen tank to kill people with instead of, say, a handgun). And there is no FBI team on his tail, no worldwide manhunt to catch the biggest serial killer of all time. It's funny how many "professional assassins" there are in movies like this (and "Pulp Fiction" and "Collateral") and how few there seem to be in real life.
The plot of this movie is so unbelievably trite, clichéd, and hackneyed that it is simply boring. Of course, a trite story can still make a great movie if it is well done. But the Coen brothers are far above actually putting in the effort to make their story work effectively on a nuts and bolts level. For instance, why bother to show the ultimate confrontation between the hero and villain? Why would the audience care about that? On some level, the Coen brothers must be laughing at all the sycophantic critics falling all over themselves to heap orgasmic praise on this joke of a movie. This film, and its ecstatic critical reception, represents the ultimate elevation of style over substance -- the appearance of meaning over actual meaning, quirkiness and moodiness for its own sake rather than in the service of a genuinely engaging story and characters.
The story, as you may know, revolves around Lleweleyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and, upon his discovery of a crime scene (a drug sale gone horribly wrong), the theft of two million dollars. From the moment he steals the money, Moss is followed by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a menacing figure who kills anyone who gets in his way. Along the way, we meet Sheriff Ed Thom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who really does nothing to advance the story any, since his character does little to stop the events which unload on screen. In his soliloquies, we learn that he has seen better times than the horror unraveling around him, and that this is no country for old men (thus the title).
And that's basically the story in a nutshell. There is virtually no development of characters, no backdrop to show us why Chigurh is involved and so evil, and no involvement of Bell's character. There is a brief appearance of Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), who is hired to track down Moss and Chigurh by someone who obviously was behind the whole drug deal, yet we know nothing about who hired him (even the credits list the character as "Man who hires Wells"). After Wells fails, the "Man who hires Wells" then involves a band of Mexicans to track down Moss, and the story goes off the rails from there.
What is even more frustrating is the final quarter of the film, where not only do we not get any further development of character, we get the lead character killed off camera, a scene involving Chigurh and Moss' wife that is not fully realized, an out-of-the-blue car accident which doesn't do anything of any importance, and, yet, another meaningless soliloquy from Jones.
I truly do not understand the hype and love surrounding this film. When I saw the film, several people walked out, and there was a groan at the end of the movie and multiple apologies to loved ones from people had brought them to see what was to be the "movie of the year." Sure, the movie had great cinematography, great sound, and decent acting (it's a Coen Brother's film, would you expect less?) - the problem lies in the script and the lack of character development. There were some great scenes of tension, especially one involving Chigurh and a gas station owner and the toss of a coin, scenes which truly deserved to be in a better movie.
If you're looking for entertainment, the best advice here is to stay far away from this film.
To some extent, this film is a character study of Sheriff Bell, an honest lawman who is wise, observant, grounded in reality, and has a long memory. "No Country For Old Men" is really his story. He doesn't know quite what to make of the drug war that has crossed over from Mexico into Texas; it's something new (for the 1980s); and it makes a land that has always been hostile to settlers even more hostile and dangerous.
The film's premise is quite simple, and the story is straightforward with minimal twists. A lot of time and care are taken with procedural actions: loading a gun, dressing a bloody wound, constructing a pole to retrieve a package from an air vent, for example. Dialogue is minimal; there's lots of silence.
Overall casting and acting are impressive. I especially liked the performance of Tommy Lee Jones who seemed a natural choice for the role of Sheriff. Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin are also well cast. Several minor roles are extremely well performed, like the store owner who is asked to call a coin toss, and the rotund lady who, with a dour face, defies Chigurh's requests in a characteristic Texas twang.
The film's color cinematography is quite good; there are lots of sweeping, wide-angle outdoor shots. I really enjoyed the geographic setting, with that whistling West Texas wind, the silence, and the stunning vistas. It's a landscape that is starkly beautiful. Yet, despite its beauty and wilderness traits, it can quickly turn hostile and unforgiving for anyone unprepared for its hidden risks.
"No Country For Old Men" is a fine film. I'd describe it as a chase story -- character study combo, with elements of noir, especially in the visuals. Violence may be a tad much for some viewers. But given the subject matter, it is entirely appropriate.
What is the purpose of suspense? I couldn't wait to see how the three main characters would interact when they inevitably met. But the Coens yank the rug out from under the audience by suddenly wiping out the protagonist 75% of the way through the movie. Why waste so much time building Llewelyn Moss'(Brolin's) character and emphasizing his resourcefulness if you're going to kill him off so abruptly with no explanation? There's easily an entire scene missing. Fine, I get it: the Mexicans found him. I don't need a rosy ending, but at least reveal how his demise went down. I'm not even asking for a gory shootout sequence; just elaborate on what led up to it. Yes, there is an underlying commentary on fate and humanity, but this movie is also an action/crime thriller where multiple peripheral characters are strangled or blown away by a sociopathic killer. It seems disingenuous to skim over the main character's death. Moss never had a chance, and neither does the viewer.
When I went to see this movie I did not know, believe it or not, it was a Coen Brothers film. However after the first scene and the visual of the boot marks all over the floor and I guessed that it was. It left me with the same feeling of the blood stains from the wood chipper in the snow from Fargo.
Not the same imagery, mind you, but the same sense of feeling. A sense of something violent and chaotic happened looked at from an obtuse albeit familiar image with contrasting colors of something that shouldn't be there.
Next the dialog came about and I knew for sure.
This movie is just plain misguided. When directors start to be identified by their techniques they are losing the plot and forgetting what film making is all about. To tell a story and to express ideas, not to showcase their quirks and be identified by them.
They should be in the background and not center stage.
The Coens, granted in my opinion only, took a step towards the over indulgent David Lynch and a giant leap away from becoming great directors based on their earlier works. The genius of Raising Arizona or Joel's The Hudsucker Proxy is a distant rock of film work casting a giant shadow on this current piece.
So many are saying that Javier Bardem's morbid and "deep" character is the real gem of the movie and brings originality to a type of role never seen before. Hell, take a look at another Tommy lee film, Batman where he played Two Face. The quirky and annoying Anton Chigurh is simply Two Face in an adult movie and like any bad guy, should not have gotten away.
Then there are the random characters being introduced in the movie for no apparent reason. I mean, just what was Woody Harrelson's character in the movie for? Seriously, without dipping into film school hogwash about stereotypes and archetypes of moral choices and bit characters to drive a moral choice. Or the old guy in the wheel chair towards the end?
By that time I was just rolling my eyes and getting more confused and upset that I was actually trying to make sense of this non-sequitur story line.
Then it hit me.
There was no point. There was no reason for this movie at all. It is just one long Coen self back patting cinematic journey and a movie to praise their own, self recognized, film making skills. What Blazing Saddles was to westerns this movie is to their previous works. It is quite ironic, and knowing the Coens deliberate, that it ends with Tommy Lee speaking of dreams. You know that feeling, the sense when you first wake up from a weird dream but in your half asleep mind set the fact that a pink dog was playing Tchaikovsky on the piano while sipping a martini and explaining why hot dogs come in 10 packs while buns come in 8 somehow can relate to your entire life plan and future goals.
As you regain your senses and become fully awake you realize that it was only a dream and sometimes a cake is just a cake.
Directors should not take center stage and simply let their films speak for them. This movie only speaks about the directors. Those that say this film is genius are still half asleep. When they wake up they also will admit they were stupefied by the Coens and didn't dare to question their "talent".
Well, I am begging you to indeed question it and see this movie for what it really is: Self indulgent nonsense.
Bottom line is that No country for Old Men (even the title is ridiculous and misleading) is a film one can easily skip. When someone comes out and tells you about this film and how great it is, watch them start talking about the Coens and their amazing talent. For if any other director made this heap of trash you would be renting this directly off the shelves as it would never have made the big screen.
The actors did a decent job of making the cartoon characters into real people with lots of good line delivery, subtle expressions and feeling of realness. The style of the film was also a nice change from the norm, I liked the silences.
Now the bad news, it was still predictable (I knew that the movie would end after Tommy Lee Jones last monologue- don't ask me how, I just knew it).
About halfway through the film I realized that evil would win out since it played like a Steven Seagal movie in reverse (with an infallible anti-hero). Not impressive in the least.
Who was Woody Harrelson supposed to be? The Greek Chorus? His character was a waste of time.
Cliché after cliché characters (writers fault). Drug dealing Mexicans, bumbling deputies, smart sheriffs, clueless wives, nasty mother-in-laws. Yawn, when have I not seen all this before.
Did I just flat out disagree with the concepts behind it. Sure I did, cause I'm not addicted to TV news the way some folks are. In my experience the law enforcement actually works together and a person like the anti-hero would be called a mass murderer and hunted down. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far. It all points to bad writing. I'm sorry that someone was grappling so hard with the whole good vs. evil issue that they took the time to make something that is really a horror film into something it isn't.
Is it art? No way. Does it contribute anything lasting to society or it's genre? Not really, perhaps some technical movie-making stuff but generally no.
Don't waste your time on this one.
The movie offers poor dialogue from the first scene on out. It's clichéd, needlessly cruel and the story itself is a trite disaster. The film exists only to jar the viewer and to attempt to be edgy and different. It offers nothing substantial, even in it's veiled attempts at allegory and a thematic message. It agitates the viewer at every level by callously killing any character they even half develop. What was the point of Woody's character? Why have the killer survive with no ramifications? Killing a main character (and his innocent wife) away from the camera is as poor as it gets. Let's not even discuss the ending, there are enough people that have mentioned that irritating lack of conclusion. I could go on but why bother? I'm not even going to remember the specifics of this film for very long. All I'll remember is the general unpleasant flavor it left and I'll remember that not many movies will leave such a poor taste. I'm not bitter. I'm grateful that going to the movies now has a bottom to the barrel in which to judge future films.
I want to thank the creators of this film. It single handedly sets up better experiences for the rest of the year because nothing could possibly be worse then this movie.
It seems that these days if you make a movie that has no story, no point, and no ending --- that that is automatically a *masterpiece* that is worthy of universal critical and consumer acclaim, and a Best Picture Oscar. That in a nutshell, is *exactly* what No Country for Old Men is.
Now that "No Country" has paved the way for such "brilliant innovations", I can't wait to see what other "innovations" await films to come in the future. Maybe next in addition to masterpiece movies requiring there to be no story, no point, and no ending, they will also eventually further innovate by doing away with other things like actors and dialogue. Maybe mankind will eventually *evolve* to such a point of perfect enlightenment that films consisting entirely of slideshows of some kindergarten students' fingerpainting artwork will eventually be the recipient of Best Picture Oscar awards and universal acclaim.
"No Country" has taken a lot of flack for having a "controversial ending" --- but that is inaccurate phrasing. "No Country " has *no ending* at all. For it to have a "controversial ending" carries the prerequisite that it first *has* an ending. It doesn't! "No Country" is just a bunch of random scenes of a repressed homosexual, turned psychopath, who goes around shooting people with a weapon powered by a giant tank of compressed air. This random formula is even further randomized by not *bothering* to show many of his kills on-screen. Including the death of the main character, who is suddenly, inexplicably, shown as a corpse in the middle of the movie. Even though the movie had previously spent gratuitous amounts of screen-time showing him prepare for, evade, and engage in firefights with the psychopath. Yet no *zero* time is devoted to showing how he died. The randomness of showing trivial moments like the main character staring thoughtfully at a wall, and buying tent-poles from a camping store, are crafted with meticulous detail and given tons of screen-time. But the film's utter genius shines through *most of all* by not spending one second showing him die or struggle to survive in his final moments before he died. Just a random fade-in, and he's suddenly a corpse! The sheer *brilliance* of such artistic unconventional storytelling has never been seen in any film or book *ever* made before in the *history* of mankind. I wonder why? Why did it take until the year 2007 for man to finally reach this high watermark of storytelling utopia? Ah heck, I need to stop wondering, and be content to wallow in the fact that since I "don't get it", I'm simply an idiot.
The main character is an extremely banal hick so I had no emotional reaction whatsoever to him at any point in the movie, or to him magically fading-in as a corpse, but I'm sure the lack of any reason to care one iota about the main character is yet another of this film's amazing innovations. Layers upon layers, my friend! In several other cases, the movie makes it totally unclear if the psychopath killed his victim or not, because after trapping the victim, the scenes simply fades to black and then he is shown again outside the building later and the victims' fates are never revealed; they are never seen or mentioned in the movie again, as corpses or otherwise. One cannot assume he killed them, because in an early scene he spares a gas station attendant.
"No Country" also innovates the art of film-making by making it's psychopath killer, "the deepest film villain since Hannibal Lecter" (or, the universal acclaimists allege...and who wants to argue with *them*!). No Country's killer shows his compelling deepness by repeatedly shouting things like "CALL IT!" after he flips a coin. In another scene, he further shows his deepness by making such deeply thought-provoking statements as: "I won't tell you you can save yourself. You can't." *Clearly*, this is Pulitzer Prize-worthy dialogue and one of the great cinematic villains of all-time. Thanks, universal acclaimists, for being honest about this and giving this character all the credit he so richly deserves! Maybe in the sequel he can play Blackjack or Poker to determine if he will shoot someone with his airgun or not? There I go again with my bad ideas, he's *already* *soooooooo freakin' unbelievably complex!!!* that to add a further level of complexity to him, like Blackjack-playing on top of coin-flipping, would be too much to even *try *to comprehend without bursting a gasket in one's brain wiring.
Tommy Lee Jones plays a hick sheriff in this movie. He is a great actor, but he seems very bored in this role and it's like he's phoning in his performance. Perhaps he was disappointed when he read the script and realized the movie has no ending, and this made him not wanna put any energy or effort into the role. The other actors in No Country are all third-rate unknowns (other than Woody Harrelson who has a nonsensical, pointless cameo); maybe Tommy Lee was simply trying to dumb-down his acting down to their level. Whatever the case may be, it's definitely Tommy Lee Jones' worst performance ever. On second thought, I am probably wrong with everything I've just said in this paragraph. Really, Tommy Lee Jones' seemingly uninspired performance is probably just him tapping into the higher plane of existence upon which this whole enigmatic masterpiece of a movie so-good that normal human beings are barely fit to watch it, much less understand it, occupies.
This guy who we find out is called Lewellen (I don't know how to spell it sorry), suddenly grows a conscience and decide to help a dying drug dealer by bringing back water, almost getting himself killed in the process. I honestly as I watched, did not understand why he went back, it was only after we left that my wife explained that he went to take that water to that poor drug dealer.
Next we meet our bad guy, a man who has been arrested, escapes and can continue to kill literally dozens of people, even having shoot outs in hotels and main streets, without anyone either caring or phoning the police. This sort of thing must be perfectly normal in Texas, because at one point you have one guy firing a shotgun on the street and no one could care less, let alone phone the police.
There's the Sheriff, who's "trying" to help the "good guy", but couldn't really care. I mean wtf was he doing all day apart from lazing about reading the paper. Apart from anything else he's got a psycho running lose and like 10 dead Mexicans as well as two dead police officers. You'd think he'd be quite busy, but he's really not.
Anyway our bad guy is hunting the thief for the money, and then in steps Woody Harrelson who you assume is going to save the day, but gets shot within five minutes. Honestly even after he was shot I thought he was faking it and would come back and help our "hero", I honestly couldn't believe it. Then they have both hero and wife murdered off camera, and again you honestly cannot believe that it happened.
The worst thing of all though is the ending, you keep thinking that the bad guy will get caught, but no he gets away, after killing like 1 million people, and the film closes with our Sheriff who's done jack anyway talking about some dreams he had. I was literally astounded by this film, it started off well, but just when you were waiting for something to happen, like a showdown between psycho and thief, nothing happened. If you want to waste your money go watch this, otherwise pick something else.
More than this, it's also about as good a morality play as one could ask for, because it plays and tools and makes very serious questions about what is moral, or what isn't, or what is so ambiguous that it's all up to the toss of a coin or a chance ride out of town. There are a few interpretations to Bardem's character Anton that could be taken, but one thing is certain- he's less a symbol than a real presence, a "ghost" as Jones's sheriff calls him that can come around at the drop of a pin, usually in the dark, and strike the utmost fear (or confusion if you're a clerk) in the hearts of men and women. You'll never look at a coin toss the same way again. Or an air-gun. Or fixing a bullet wound in a leg. Or a hunt at a motel. Or even the aftermath of a car crash.
But at the same time it's the purest time of cinema, recalling Hitchcock and Leone and Welles's Touch of Evil and the best of noir and westerns. There are so many exceptional shots and lighting, so much depth to the perception of the characters through the mis-en-scene, so much tension, that through this it's all up to the actors to make or break the near-perfection that is the McCarthy source. Bardem embodies Anton like no other could- you can't look at his eyes, often steel-cold and horrifically professional (to what professional who can say), which occasional tear- and it's obviously worthy of an Oscar. And Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are also fantastic; we see Brolin often in the midst of an action scene, a moment of 'save-your-life' going on, and one can finally see an actor of his caliber completely breaking out in a role that doesn't require him to ever totally "emote". Jones, on the other hand, gives a compassionate turn in a film that's about the struggles of desperate men in a land without law and order. He's gone through so much that it comes out completely in his voice and eyes, sorrowful but holding back, and he reaches a level of connection with the character that makes the Fugitive look like simpleton TV. Kelly McDonald, who plays Lleland's wife, is also excellent when called upon, especially in a crucial scene later in the film.
It's gut-wrenching, bleak, violent, super-tense (I clenched many a knuckle during some scenes), surprisingly funny in a darkly comic manner not seen by the Coens in many years, and artistically fashioned to a beat that is meditative (watch the opening moments with Jones's voice-over), simple, and doomed. It's beautiful and terribly tragic, for McCarthy fans it finally strikes at what is truest to his material- even if you haven't read the book itself the Road will give an indication of the mood and atmosphere at hand- and at the moment I can't think of any other film that would be the best pick of the year- maybe one of the best films I've ever seen.
"No Country for Old Men" has Javier Bardem playing Anton Chigurh, a monstrous motive-less killer (unless you count the money, but how does he know about it?) He slides in and out of scenes, you are always chilled but like the clichéd train-wreck victims you see reeling on the side of the road, he never engages you, you never speculate on what made him this way, he is simply a nerveless, passionless cypher.
Actually the clichés were too many to count in this truly, truly disappointing effort from the Coen brothers. A police officer turns his back on the monster and is promptly dispatched and of course the monster manages to squeeze bloodily out of his own handcuffs. H'mm. The instrument used to kill by Chigurh is some kind of stun gun with an oxygen tank. Surely to God he could get hands on a gun with a silencer and not have to lug this tank around like some deranged Fred Munster? There is so much blood, the only conclusion I could make was that this was the whole point, raise the barf meter with everyone, show acres of gratuitous violence to draw in the desirable adbash demographic and forget any kind of plot. A slasher film for the pseudo-sophisticated.
The movie grabs you early and you think, as you survey a field full of fallen felons (they were involved in a drug heist) discovered by an officer played by Josh Brolin, that this movie is going to unwind a great mystery. You settle in for the denouement.
Poor you. You are sidetracked by an absolutely meaningless sub-plot involving Woody Harrelson (another grisly ending) and by Tommy Lee Jones who was left without any relevant script and wanders cynically in and out of scenes, delivering tired old witticisms as a sheriff. We can count the ways and days of tired old cynical sheriffs. I was waiting for "life is just a box of chocolates and Chigurh the hardboiled candy". It would have improved things.
I was baffled as to the narrative. Was there one? Why didn't I get it? Was this movie, in spite of the barrels of blood, too deep for me? I was asking myself these questions long before it was over.
Was this movie reaching for pretension or was it truly in the stratum of the intellectual elite? Coin toss answer.
For me, it seemed fitting that there was no ending to this. No plot should equal a no ending. The beast didn't die and went on his stumbling way. All the good guys died, apart from aforementioned slow-drawl sheriff, who is now retired.
Zero artistic merit, zero plot. I gave it a 1 to bring down the over-rating. I still like Tommy, Josh gave a great perforance but I'm going to be really leery of future Coen efforts.
I've literally seen thousands of films at the theatre in my life and the response to this thing was something I've never seen before. It was a near revolt. I actually saw people angrily walking to get a refund. This exchange perfectly sums up this waste of film...
The woman seated behind me turns to the people she was with and says, "Bill, that was the LAST time you pick the movie." He responds, "I'm soooo sorry. That was completely awful." I turned to my friends and apologized as well. They were there because I wanted to see it. I had to apologize all the way to the parking lot.
Anyone here labeling it a masterpiece or thinking it's a textured, complex film couldn't be more wrong. This was nothing more then a blatant attempt to shatter the cookie cutter Hollywood genre picture using poor dialogue and offbeat characters. That was its ONLY goal. Creating unpredictable crap may have helped it accomplish that goal but that doesn't make it good work in any way. It certainly doesn't qualify as entertainment.
SPOILERS follow but I'd advise those who haven't seen it to read them. This could save you money and wasted time...
Killing the lead barely three quarters of the way through the movie, OFF SCREEN, may seem clever to some but it's just so irritating to most. The movie does take the tedious time to try to emotionally involve you with the characters and the story. What I can't understand is how anyone can think that frustrating an audience is good cinema. Callously killing multiple characters with no consequences, killing the lead off screen, killing his wife, having the insane psychopath villain walk away scott free (hurt by a random car wreck no less) and having Tommy Lee Jones' character quit and babble to the camera before a cut to black is as bad of a theatre experience as anyone could imagine. Clearly, my audience felt cheated and I was chief among them. Word of mouth will be as bad as gets from general audiences, not alleged film buffs pretending to posture and enjoy a film because they think it makes them appear clever.
As an accurate cinematic realisation of a book the Cohen brothers' version of Cormack McCarthy's novel is hard to fault. But the novel is ludicrous, and, ultimately, so is the film.
1) The self-consciously post-modern comic book plot: a briefcase of drugs money, temporarily unguarded after a desert drug-deal shoot-out in which everyone died, is found by 'Nam vet (Llewellyn Moss - Josh Brolin) while hunting deer. Living gang members are quickly on his trail. Moss goes on the run with the cash. Terminator-style hit-man (Anton Chigurh - Javier Bardem) embarks on killing spree to recover the loot. He starts by brutally throttling a policeman. Ordinarily this would trigger a massive police response. But this never happens. Instead, two local lawmen trail lamely in Chigurh's wake as the killings multiply, casually and repeatedly messing up abundant forensic evidence as they go. Eventually Chigurh recovers the cash, kills Moss and probably Moss's girlfriend too (just to keep a promise). Ageing sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) laments tide of violent crime lapping at his feet. The End. 2) Apart from the burnt-out Bell, the characters are about as realistic as the puppets in an episode of Thunderbirds. They move through the plot in the same jerky way with strings glinting in the unrelenting Texan sunlight. The hit-man is the most clunky puppet of the lot: a relentessly banal robot.
The adulation heaped on this silly film is a classic example of the emperor's new clothes.
At its most simplistic, the film is a game of cat and mouse. The mouse here is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who stumbles upon two million in cash after a drug deal gone wrong, and takes it thinking nothing of it. He tries to cover his tracks, but ends up letting the group looking for the money, figure out his identity. The cat is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a hit-man hired to find Moss and the money. But Chigurh is unconventional at best; he also happens to be bordering on mentally insane. And another man, a law man this time, Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), is on the trail of both men as they criss-cross around Texas.
Right up until its dénouement, the film is simply brilliant. Taut and thrilling, it blows right through the majority of its two hour runtime with ease. Even during moments of slowing down, the film stays right on track and never feels like it has run its course. It engages even when it appears that nothing is happening. The Coen Brothers truly crafted what appears at first glance to be a masterpiece, even if it is their first real shot at something that is not indelibly and inarguably their own. Even without reading Cormac McCarthy's novel, I know that the Coens have done it justice, even with their bitterly twisted and dark sense of humour scattered throughout the film.
But all of that comes to a standstill as the film concludes. The last twenty or so minutes feel like hours as the film wraps itself up, and it almost feels like these scenes belong to another movie entirely (one that borders on being pretentious and monotonous). I realize now that McCarthy's novel probably ends the same way, but it does not help provide closure to the fact that the movie is so break-neck paced right up until this happens. Its brilliance is shattered by what looks to be a series of tattered events thrown together to provide closure for all of the characters, alive or dead, and for its audience. It speaks volumes to the film's title, but it just does not feel satisfying compared to the rest of what we saw. Even with its enigmatic devices at play, I still cannot come to terms with how the film closes. It does haunt, and in a way, it may prove to be a significantly stronger ending as time rolls on. But as it stands now, it just feels weak.
What is also a bit of a surprise, and only seems to appear as the film concludes, is the music. It is not so obvious at first, but the majority of the film is audibly shown with just the sounds the characters make and no background music to speak of. This element is brilliantly used, as it helps intensify every situation and makes the film downright terrifying in some cases. It just helps truly make the film come together, and only helps establish the quick pacing even more so. It was definitely a surprise, and one that will probably help the lasting impact of the film become even stronger.
The lush and bloodsoaked visuals also help to define the film. Despite the film taking place mainly in deserted areas, or the desert itself, the camera manages to capture just the right essence of what the writing and acting is conveying. The isolation and the terror almost become characters themselves through these visuals, and are sure to be recognized as the award season rolls in.
The film's acting is also very well done. Brolin anchors the film and even when it is just the audience reacting to his attempts at saving his life, he manages to deliver the best performance of his career. He breathes life into Moss, and truly brings a sense of pathos to the character. We feel for him and his greedy mistake, and as he develops into a man unwilling to go down without a fight, he only manages to up the ante for himself countlessly. Jones, as the law man stuck on the fringe of every event, also does very well for himself. Most of his work is simply delivering dialogue, but it is delivered in such a fashionable sense that you feel like he is speaking to the bigger picture of things, and not just himself. I would have liked a bit more development in his character, but what little there is helps his performance greatly.
Supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Kelly Macdonald are also done well, but are overshadowed by the main cast by both Brolin and Jones.
And even more of an overcast is Bardem as the ruthless Chigurh. He absolutely nails this character down to his very bones. If anyone is merely toying with the idea of seeing the film, it should be specifically for Bardem. His performance is calculating and plagued with petrifying silence. When he chooses to talk, his words sound like they are being given by the essence of evil. This is a man with a plan, but it is one that only belongs to him. His enigmatic presence is developed throughout the film, and never once does it feel particularly appropriate to understand where this menace comes from. Watching him on screen is a jolt to the heart, and will go down as one of the best performances of the decade. His terrible hair only helps to make his character that more scary and formidable.
No Country for Old Men is one of the best pictures of the year, even if it is flawed. Its brilliance and lasting impact with leave you haunted.
This movie isn't so much as a movie as it is an anecdote. It's like watching some dismal abyss of a film, with no plot, no real ending, and just a depressing story that basically comes down to no discernible resolve.
The actor's are spot on, Tommy Lee Jones is as good an actor as anyone, he's always suited as the strong, masculine, and wise individual salted with the experience of ten men's lives. It is a role that he is very suited for, and in the last 15 years or so, from the role he plays in the various US Marshals series to the beyond his expectations of years in Rules of Engagement, etc; he is very much the tired old veteran who feels he has lived beyond the expectation of his life, and much of the movie you feel that reflection in his acting. Javier Bardem is clearly the self absorbed evil character that so many movies have, and yet he never has any closure. We never get a sense that justice has reacted to his narrow misses with death.
Josh Brolin plays a convincing role at times, but I take issue with certain points in the movie. !!SPOILER!!WARNING!!SPOILER!! For example, at one point Brolin appears in the wild to be a successful and talented tracker. He portrays someone who is not so much intelligent as he is wise to his surroundings and the fragile nature of life. And yet he misses a deer he's hunting (why is he in the desert in the first place is beyond me). Then when he revisits the scene of the various trucks scattered upon a drug deal gone awry, he doesn't bring his rifle nor his binoculars? Why would you approach a situation where Drug money is clearly involved without a long range rifle, and more importantly no ability to defend yourself? How smart do you have to be to dump a bag full of money for a new bag? Have none of these people considered that there might be some kind of tracking device? Brolin saw the locater earlier. What did he think it was for, Radio Control Cars??? I kind of feel like this is one of those movies that got cut too many times before the film reached the studios, and as a result we're left with a story that doesn't have a plot line. We're left with no explanation really of who orchestrated the Heroin deal, why it went bad, more so at first it appears that Woody Harelson is some photographic memory genius and then gets ambushed by Bardem. How did Javier track him? Spidey sense? Sixth Sense? Did he invoke the Great Spirit from beyond? Come on.... at least give some kind of detail on how and why Woody is even involved? Why would Woody even leave the money untouched? Six out of ten is gracious, only because the acting is so good, but next time, if the movie needs to be thirty minutes longer to get a story across, do it. Because this movie is a mess. I think this must be how everyone at the season ending of Entourage felt when they screened Vinnie's cluster-you-know-what of a movie....
Great acting, Great actors, but a story that is about like watching Happy Gilmore take a swing at the puck....
Based on the 2003 novel by Cormac McCarthy, the movie unfolds in the dusty Texas borderlands as hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the remnants of a desert drug deal gone bad, complete with a case containing two million dollars. Succumbing to temptation, Moss makes off with the money setting in motion a chain of events that leaves a trail of blood spattered carnage across the State as he is pursued by the ruthless, coin tossing hit man Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) among whose killing weapons of choice is a pneumatic air gun.
Bearing little in common with pretty much any previous Coen film with the possible exception of Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men is a dark, bleak, ode to the baser elements of the human soul, and a spit in the eye to the noble ones as well.
With a structural trademark hinging upon breaking the conventional norms of predictability, No Country is a movie that will unsettle you at successive turns - in the way deaths are dealt out; by its palpable tension that can almost be cut with a knife, and its periodic deviations from the narrative norm the latter likely the only Coen brothers "quirk" for which their movies are renown.
Switching back and forth between the game of cat and mouse being played out by Moss and Chigurh and the investigation of unfolding events by cynical aging Texas Sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the Coens weave a web of dangled threads that one can't help but expect will be neatly tied together at story's end, only to tie them up in ways that buck the storytelling norm and manage to be both unsatisfying and true to their nature at the same time.
Unforgettable among this tableau is Bardem's Chigurh. The Spanish actor who has also appeared in Love in the Time of Cholera and Goya's Ghosts evokes the most amazing presence of a ruthless killer with his own twisted adherence to a bizarre code of ethics that nothing short of witnessing his performance can do it justice.
Sadly, however, justice is one of the few items in abundance in this movie. And yet, as unhappy as I am that the Coen's screenplay defiantly refuses to cater to the audience's inherent desire for satisfaction, I grudgingly have to admire them for opting for the unpredictable.
Consider the movie akin to one big coin toss will it be heads or tales? Call it - you've been calling it your entire life.
Unfortunately, as great as the movie started out, it devolved into pretentious art-film-like movie-making and a muddled ending with no clear ending. Not defined ending or happy ending, but CLEAR ending. The whole thing came to an abrupt end like a train that hits an invisible wall at low speed.
The cinematography was something worth an Oscar in itself, and I especially loved the way it was shot when Llewellyn discovered the botched drug deal and eventually the money. It was so realistic, you could almost feel the mucky grime of blood drying in the sand or the greasiness of an overused dump-truck, the plainness of the brand-less milk, all the homey settings of a western border-city.
The character Llewellyn isn't very likable. He reminds me something of The Dude in that he's very much aloof to the horrors of seeing the shot-up drug dealers, and casually takes their money and goes home, suddenly remembering one of the dying men asked him for water, and deciding to go back with a gallon of tap water for him, until Anton Shigurh comes after him and he panics, and is forced to become resolute.
In the beginning, Anton Shigurh, played by Javier Bardem, seemed the ideal villain; quiet, utterly irredeemable, seeming the kind of person who would kill someone at any moment without any sort of honor. Even the scene where he makes a shopkeep gamble on his life with the flip of his coin, you fully expect Anton to kill him at any moment, even when he lets the man live.
At about the mid-way point of the movie, it starts to unravel. Perhaps I need to see the movie again, but for the life of me, I cannot begin to wonder what Tommy Lee Jones's character's purpose in the movie is. He promises Llewellyn's wife that he'll make sure Llewellyn lives, and goes about doing nothing but reading the newspaper and lounging about in the office or at a diner. Only once does he visit the crime scene, and towards the end does he come close to the killer.
Next come the nameless character played by Woody Harrelson, and the oh-so-elegantly named "Man in the Office" played by Stephen Root. Woody Harrelson's character describes Anton for us, and then wanders off to meet with Llewellyn, and then get killed by Anton for some reason. Anton then randomly appears in the Office man's office and kills him in the middle of interviewing some guy for a job. Anton doesn't say anything of worth to the other man, and is then back to the western area chasing Llewellyn. I have no idea what that was supposed to be about.
The thing is a mess, as the movie skips ahead slightly with Llewellyn dead, and Anton flustered that he lost the money. In a moment that completely changes my opinion of Anton from cold, calculating, assassin of pure evil, to a pitiful, pathetic, stubborn childish creature that kills Llewellyn's wife just because Llewellyn didn't let Anton kill him.
For some random reason, as Anton is driving off from her house, he gets hit by a car, staggers out with a broken arm, and walks away.
For another random reason, Tommy Lee Jones's character has some retrospect, then gives a long, rambling soliloquy about a dream he had. I have heard many accents, and I have very sharp hearing. I can understand some of the most rambling of mumblings and mutterings, but for the life of me, I could not understand more than a few words of Tommy Lee Jones's heavily accented, mumbling, rambling speech about dreaming about his father.
And it suddenly ended with "And then I woke up."