Watch It, Friendo
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog daily editor David Iscoe watched a movie, really liked it, and wrote about it.
While The Darjeeling Limited and American Gangster got a lot of anticipation, perhaps rightfully so, there was no movie that I’d been waiting for longer than No Country for Old Men; it’s a Coen brothers movie based on a Cormac McCarthy book. What’s more, it’s a very filmable Cormac McCarthy book at that, far more filmable than All The Pretty Horses and infinitely more so than Blood Meridian,which Ridley Scott will attempt in 2009. Basically, a man stumbles upon a busted heroin deal near the Texas/Mexico border, finds a case of money, and runs away. An assassin endeavors to hunt him down, and an aging sheriff tries to deal with the whole affair.
Some critics have been calling No Country for Old Men a return to the Blood Simple days of the Coens, but I didn’t find it to be that, exactly. The movie’s overall structure, and even some plot elements, are actually similar to The Big Lebowski, although their current film is obviously much more serious in tone. Like Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and O Brother Where Art Thou! the movie has what Sherrif Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) calls “a true and living prophet of destruction,” the ruthless but impeccably calm Anton Chigurgh (Javier Bardem,) and Chigurgh is both the scariest and most convincing prophet of destruction yet. The rest of the cast, particularly Jones, deserve a lot of credit for their performances, but Bardem steals the show; when he’s on screen, much of the audience is visibly uncomfortable — and he’s on it a lot.
Although as previous Coen movies were known in part for their clever dialogue and either inventive or well-stolen storylines, they were really carried by great casting, perfect shots, and expert editing: in short, really good directing. That’s also what carries this movie, with the story and dialogue taken verbatim from McCarthy’s novel. The movie takes the feeling of the story almost as directly; the adventure, violence, and brutality are there, but so is the disturbing lack of closure and poetic justice. The Coens significantly cut down the last third of the novel into a much smaller portion of the film, and the result is that the disquieting “no country for old men” part of McCarthy’s work comes through even stronger than it would. Their screenplay omits or cuts down a lot of scenes that I was looking forward to seeing on the big screen, but, seeing the product, it’s impossible to complain.
Or is it? The ending, taken directly from the book, seemed to solicit some negative reactions. One old lady, sitting in front of me in the theater, boisterously asked “and then what happened?” as the credits began to roll. Several others complained about it on Fandango or something. However, these people are INCORRECT. The CORRECT opinion about this movie is that it is great to begin with, better after it sinks in a little, and, probably, like most Coen movies, even better on a second viewing. Consider yourself CORRECTED, gramma!
No Country for Old Men is currently in a limited release, (with four theaters in New York, so not that limited) and will be widely released on November 21st. You can read this conversation between Joel and Ethan Coen and Cormac McCarthy that appeared in Time magazine last month.