Nov

16

Watch It, Friendo

Written by

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Jared

    I saw the movie last night. I wasn't too sure how I felt about it. Initially, I disliked the ending. I felt cheated and had mixed emotions about what this film was about and its intended purpose. I still can't stop thinking about it and considering it has resonated so strongly, it must have done something very right, regardless if the ending was somewhat questionable...or was it?

    I'm half with grandma and half with the reviewer.

  2. yeah  

    i'm half with man half with bear half with pig.
    this movie was good, these are people dealing with the logical but incomprehensible march of evil in different ways and ultimately failing. but this shit was long, and, like most 'thought provoking' movies, i think the subject matter could have been dealt with better in another art form.
    gonna go remove the stick from my ass now.

    • the movie  

      was 2 hours 2 minutes, which is on the longer side for the coen bros., who often spit out 90-odd minute gems, but pretty concise compared to some of this year's awards season behemoths: American Gangster, Lust Caution, Into the Wild, The Assassination of Jesse James were all around or over the 2 1/2 hour-mark. hell, even Knocked Up was longer than No Country.

      also, i don't really know what you mean by "thought provoking" movies: i thought No Country was much more a sensory and emotional experience than an invitation to intellectual debate. it's not exactly an issue movie. maybe what you really mean is, "movies with a conscious and deliberate artistic purpose."

    • manbearpid

      I'm one 100% manbearpig.

  3. awesome  

    This movie really freaked me out and thats a good thing. The tension created by the ending is what MADE this movie. I saw it almost a week ago and I'm still thinking about it.

  4. good writeup, discoe  

    but i would say the movie's structure is a lot closer to Fargo than the Big Lebowski: Tommy Lee Jones is Frances McDormand, Javier Bardem is Peter Stormare, and Josh Brolin is William H. Macy.

    • DHI  

      I think I was a little off saying "plot structure," I guess I was referring more to the story arc and the progression of events, which I do think was closer to Lebowski than anything else they've done. But yeah, I get what you're saying. And nice response to #2.

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