Sunday, December 16, 2007

Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

Before I say anything, I would like to say a few words to all the Tom Brady and Tony Romo fantasy owners who enjoyed the ride of a lifetime as these QB's packed in record seasons as they propelled hundreds of thousands of fantasy teams into the playoffs this week only to leave those teams and the owners' hopes in shambles. In what is probably the most unexpected and horrendous let down in fantasy history, this is what fantasy football playoffs are all about. It's not fair and the best team doesn't always win. Take a life lesson from these things. Anyway, ONWARD!

Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, the Coen's get back to business by doing what they do masterfully...tell a great story.

In the week since I intended to write this review No Country has gone on to pile up numerous awards from the New York Film Critics and National Board of Review and other people in charge of giving out praise for film in categories like Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Directing, Screenplay, and Ensemble Cast. All of which this film deserves. What also has emerged is the likely Oscar contenders with teen pregnancy dramedy, Juno, taking the Little Miss Sunshine spot, Atonement for the period piece, and No Country and There Will Be Blood rounding out the legitimate contenders spot. I am exuberantly ecstatic about P.T. Anderson's latest, and I will be sure to let you all know what I think about it once it is released. Anywho...

Following previous lackluster effort by the Coen's in the form of: The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn't There, and O Brother Where Art Thou? (which I enjoyed, but some did not), No Country is much more in the vein of Fargo and Miller's Crossing. The story is centered around great characters, an enthralling story, and just enough existential commentary on society that those brain cells of mine that really enjoy such things were jumping for joy.

The basic outline of the film follows drug money, the man that finds it, the man that wants it, and the men that try to figure out what is going on. I guess the main driving force of the film is Javier Bardem's character, Anton Chigurh. A Mexican bounty hunter out for the lost drug money. Chigurh is one of the most interesting characters and one of the best villains in recent movie history. The perfect blend of a psycho, killer, cerebral, and principled character, Bardem is able to bring to life an incredibly complex character whose presence not only makes the characters in the film uneasy when he is around, but also makes the audience feel anxious for what this madman will do next.

Chigurh is essentially an Angel of Death, where whenever he is present odds are someone is going to die. However, what makes Chigurh most interesting is that he is not a pure madman, but a rather disciplined killer who does not pursue innocent people, but rather kills those that choose to involve themselves in his path. Of all the people Chigurh kills in the movie, none of them were unwarranted in his frame of mind. Each person interfered or involved themselves in Anton's business without him provoking them.

Similarly to Omar in The Wire, for those that watch, these kinds of principles are what allow Chigurh to survive in a business where violence surrounds him and he should be dead. For those that don't know, Omar robs drug dealers for cash and drugs. Now, normally, Omar would be killed, but his honor in doing what he does protects him in what he does. There is something very poetic about that aspect.

The main character being chased is Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin. While he too is gaining attention for his performance, I must say I enjoyed Brolin more in Planet Terror. Moss has the misfortune of stumbling onto some drug money, which he decides to take, setting in motion his fate.

Finally, as a moral compass is the good old Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Jones is the old school sheriff who is trying to figure out what is going on. Bell is a second generation sheriff who was raised on principles of honor and duty. His voice actually opens the film speaking of the old days where sheriff's didn't have guns and all men had honor. A novel idea, but as the film unveils itself, it is clear that such notions are in the past.

In the end, as the story moves along, you are certainly pulled into the pursuit of the money, the characters involved, and the back stories they have which the Coens mostly just hint at. Bubbling underneath this suspenseful film is a tale of morality and the paradox that comes about when a man has principles. The three main characters are all lead by choices they make, and their principles lead them down their own road.

Moss is an Army vet who lives in a trailer with his wife. While he does have a strong will, his morals are in question. When left with the choice to take this drug money or leave it, his desire to better his life moves him to take the money. With good intentions, but a poor choice, Moss is sent on the run and forced to deal with the fear and paranoia that comes with the money.

Sheriff Bell is a man who has strong convictions and principles. He is lead by his desire to solve the crime, to get rid of the bad guys and have a peaceful county. However, his principles turn out to be dated. As a result this man who operates with a very high moral code is left to be useless and rather pathetic in the end. A sad state on the affairs of society when such a person is left in such a hopeless state.

Finally, Anton is a man who, as I said before, has principles for a killer. In order for him to continue to live he must keep doing what he does. To kill those that are in his way, and to maintain what he believes to be right. While what he believes is misguided, it is his ability to continue to pursue these ideals that keeps him safe from the punishment of such misgivings. There is a scene in the end of the movie where Anton, for a split second, has his eyes wander to children enjoying themselves. Right after that he is badly injured in a car accident. I took this as to meaning his purpose in life is to be a killer. To do anything else will lead him to his death. There is no other option for him. This enables him to survive in this society.

Overall, the movie is great. It can be a tad long at times, but there is the typical Coen humor and suspense that makes this movie a must see.

Directing: 8.5/10
Acting: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Re-Watchability: 10/10
DVD Purchase: 9/10

Overall: 9.3/10

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