No Country For Old Men Review

No Country For Old Men

One reviewer referred to it as taking all the lovable characters from "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" placing them in the desert, and essentially killing all of them. Frankly, that just about sums it up for No Country For Old Men, the latest in the line of movies from the Coen brothers since the ill-received Lady Killers. Of course this film has much more of a message going for it beyond "kill this, kill that," but at the same time I'm willing to question whether or not that really is such a great thing.
Say what you want, perhaps it is my own personal taste, but let's face it, the killing really makes this movie what it is. What the Coen brothers have excelled in is building up a tremendous storyline, and then showing us what would happen if it were to simply be torn to shreds. It is tremendously entertaining to watch. Take for example one spectacular shootout on the abandoned streets of a small town (I'm not giving anything away here). There is this unbridled man vs. man conflict, only met by the equally foreboding tension proceeding it. The ensuing fight is so bracing and jarring, you can't help but get involved yourself. For many films, moments like these are necessarily built up with long, drawn out, scenes of exposition meant to define character. Here, the characters are fleshed out in ways which are engaging and often terrifying. The highlight for me is one piece of dialog between the main antagonist, a merciless hitman, and a simple hearted gas attendant, who is faced with a fifty fifty shot at life or death.
I really feel no need to point how magnificent Javier Bardem is, or how wonderful his supporting actors Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin shine, because nothing needs to be said (and I'm sure every other critic will take liberties to say it). They're all great.
So here is my only gripe with No Country For Old Men, and that is my slight disappointment that the movie had to have some kind of message to it. Yeah, I get it's based off a book, and yes, messages do tend to help benefit the viewer beyond the theater. Still, I couldn't help but imagine how amazing No Country For Old Men could have been if it was made as a straight for the gut thriller. All those moments of tension and action are abruptly shifted to aid a message, which, I presume is probably about our need for tension and action. Maybe the film was to provide insight to the violence of man, and the violent nature of man's mind. Hmm, profound. But who cares? I already know the human mind wants to see violence, heck, that's one reason why most people would spend ten bucks to see a movie about a soulless killing machine. This is what we prepared ourselves for, so frankly, I would prefer to see a movie that built up to a big finale, rather than the deus ex machina we are already aware of.
What this film amounts to is a standard Shakespearian tragedy in structure, which in itself is a feat. The standard elements of a tragic hero, a villain, even one remaining character which signifies hope or wisdom. As one definition says, "a story of exceptional calamity, leading to the death of a man of high estate." In their definition of what men can consider "high estate" the Coen brothers have found a truly great film. I highly recommend watching it.

No comments: