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OscarNattersWatch: "No Country for Old Men"

Posted at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2008 by Euan Kerr (3 Comments)

Having left "Eastern Promises" feeling pummeled, I slipped into my seat for "No COuntry for Old Men" a mite unsettled. However, I left feeling very satisfied.

Yes, this is a violent, blood-soaked film. No-one comes out well, and a lot of people end up dead. Yet the Coen brothers have once again created a fascinating parallel universe where psychotic killers have seemingly supernatural powers to find victims and evade the police. Part of it's fascination is our knowledge we can walk out of the theater and leave it behind.

The bones of the story are simple enough: a man stumbles across the scene of a shoot-out at a drug-deal gone wrong, and finds a case filled with $100 bills. He takes it. He almost gets away with it. But he makes a decision, based on compassion, which sets off a whole series of events, and puts him in the sights of the aforementioned killer.

On surveying the shoot-out a deputy opines "It's a mess." To which the sheriff responds, "If it ain't, it'll do till it gets here."

What makes "No Country" so watchable are the small touches and juxtapositions, some which harken back to their earlier films, and especially "Blood simple." The gathering storms over Texas which flash across the sky, but never bring the relief of rain, Instead it's the flash of headlights from arriving cars and pick-ups carrying more malevolent spirits driven by mindless greed and bent on destruction.

The Coen's characters are victims of fate. Lives hang on seemingly simple decisions, a coin toss, an invitation to have a beer. Some of the characters are unaware of this. Others dwell and even bank on what they see as inevitability.

I am being deliberately vague here because this is a flick with so many twists, including the end, it would be just plain wrong to reveal more. Interestingly at least one person at the showing I attended loudly voiced upset at the conclusion of the film, but it fits right in as far as I'm concerned.

"No Country" is up for a passel of Oscars: best picture, best director, best supporting actor (Javier Bardem,) best adaptation, best editing best sound, best sound editing, best cinematography. It has to be a strong contender in all of these categories, with the Coen's wringing and direction being central to this. And while Tommy Lee Jones is not nominated for this film, you have to believe that his strong performance as the lyrically depressed Sheriff Ed Tom Bell will play into the voting for his best actor nomination for "In the Valley of Elah."

Again I have to see more of the contenders for the best pictures, but Javier Bardem is remarkable as the calmly psychotic Anton Chigurh. Part of the brilliance of his character is while most of the anglo characters are dismissive of the Mexicans in the story, the fact that the most powerful and terrifying person in the story undermines their entire worldview, without many of them being aware of his presence.

Comments (3)

Ok a movie review does not entail retelling the entire plot as well as throwing in literary elements to try and make it sound like you know what your talking about...Short and sweet the movie was excellent, I am not going to blow smoke up any actors a** by saying he or she had a brillant performance. Then ending may have left the audience wanting more, but you know what after a movie if your still talking about it thats pretty brilliant filmaking in my opinion. I also really do not care for in depth analysis trying to explain what I think the director did to capture real life social anxieties, bottom line movies are made for entertainment and No country for Old Men acomplished that

Posted by Marshall Wallker | February 1, 2008 1:15 PM

Yes in many ways a brilliant film and totally riveting leaving one stunned at the end however the directors pretensiousness proved very disappointing in what was not just an inconclusive ending (that in itself was not so bad) but very sadly changed the rythym of the piece in apparently editing out scenes specifically the death of the main hero which we felt was key to the whole thing.
For me this changed what had looked like being a tour de force into a brilliant film that ended unsatisfactorily.
It could so easily have been one of my films of all time.
The anti hero Javier Bardem's performance was truly extraordinary and the quality of the film technically was very high indeed. It will stay with me for a while but I am irritated at the sense of not quite being fulfilled which is strange, as I usually like inconclusive endings that leave you with something to ponder

Posted by Tony Gordon | February 3, 2008 9:47 AM

just saw no country for old men, it's unassumingly unconventional yet (thankfully) never over-the-top. the Coen bros. deserve their Oscars; well done indeed.

Posted by patrick | March 12, 2008 1:52 PM

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