No Country For Old Men

Paul Yim Paul Yim: (paulyim-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-02-09 11:47:57

No Country For Old Men - Rank S


Ever walk down a street and do the ole double-take? You know what I mean: your eye, during its normal scanning mode, catches a glimpse of something so amazing (or horrifying), so beautifully rendered (or ugly as shit) that you consciously force it to take a second look. For moviegoers, double-taking is a rarity. Tickets cost, on average, 10 bucks; the average length of a movie is around 120 minutes; and parking? Fuggetaboutit. You get the idea: watching a movie a second time is usually not worth it, even if it is good. Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country For Old Men is a no brainer. See it again. (If you haven't seen it yet: 1. I cyber-slap you through time and space 2. stop reading this right now and go see it - I mean it, RIGHT NOW!)

(I cyber-slap you a second time because you're not listening to me. Why are you reading this still?? Go! Now!) The very first Coen brothers movie I saw was Raising Arizona. A young Nicolas Cage steals a baby for his young, needy wife played by Holly Hunter. Hilarious. But most people won't remember the Coens for this movie. They'll be remembered for Fargo. In all fairness, Fargo is a modern classic and the Coens' signature film. They've done some incredible work since Fargo, however. O Brother, Where Art Thou? comes to mind. Regardless, in Hollywood, you're only as good as your last film and No Country For Old Men is another classic. It's an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.

As in Raising Arizona, Fargo, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coens subtly mask their subtext with seemingly humorous dialogue in No Country For Old Men. The setting is rural Texas, somewhere out on the fringes of wild country, where a man can hunt undisturbed or make a big drug deal without any prying eyes. Josh Brolin (Dr. William Block in Planet Terror and pictured on the right) plays the hunter who comes across the drug deal gone awry. Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside and as Felix in Collateral) plays the mysterious "cleaner" who must find the money and kill all those involved. Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff who must put all the pieces together if he's to save the day. At face value it sounds like a typical thriller - you know, where the protagonist is hot on the trail of a mysterious killer who is so clever and so far ahead of the detective/reporter/lawyer that he/she is, in fact, *gasp* the detective/reporter/lawyer! Dun dun DUN!! Honestly, because No Country For Old Men is so well written, you never feel that it's a thriller at all. In fact, the Coens's grasp of local dialects and cadences in their scripts is the mark of their true genius. Watch for the scene where Tommy Lee Jones and his deputy examine the scene of the drug deal gone wrong. It's straight up explication. It's the scene where the filmmakers decide they no longer want to be coy about the plot and start feeding you information via dialogue to move the story along. It's usually boring and so obvious that most audiences are taken out of "the moment". But in No Country For Old Men the scene is so peppered with local euphemisms and that particular Texas twang that you can't help but be entertained - even if it is explication.

Someone once said, "Anybody can point a camera, but only a few have the eye for directing." I find this adage to be truer with every movie that I see. Most people will understand the job of the director as the one in charge of the entire production - the one responsible for the overall vision of the picture. This is true, but it doesn't do any justice to the artistry involved in directing. After all, a film director is far more than a mere manager. First and foremost, like a painter or sculptor, the director must be able to see in the mind's eye what the shot will look like and then be able to translate that image onto celluloid. If this sounds easy to you, try this: take a pencil and some paper and try to draw a scene from your life as you remember it. Every time you erase a line because it isn't quite right is your inner director yelling, "CUT! DO IT AGAIN!" This is why I have such tremendous respect for the Coen brothers. Take the opening shots of No Country For Old Men: shots of rural Texas that would be completely natural but for the odd fence post here or a dilapidated water tower there. Then follow that with a shot of a desert highway leading off into infinity as a police car drives off into it. It's as if to say that the country will always be here, but people and their sordid lives will pass away into nothing. It's beautiful, to say the least, and that's only the start of the movie. There are some tremendous sequences throughout. Without giving too much away: there's a sequence where Josh Brolin is running for his life in the middle of the night while his pursuers chase him down in a large truck with glaring searchlights. You never get to see the faces of his pursuers, only the lights of the truck - which make it look like some kind of monster from the deep. The scene is intense and downright shit-in-your-pants scary.

I highly recommend this film. I like it so much I'm going to buy it as soon as it's out on DVD. If this movie wins Best Picture this year, I wouldn't be surprised. When you go to see this film don't expect any sunshine up your ass - you'll only get a swift kick to the nads for your troubles. Instead, expect the unexpected and a well crafted film. You'll be more than pleasantly surprised.

Ciao.

The second link is the Blu-Ray version of the film.

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