A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 463 – No Country For Old Men

No Country for Old Men – June 6th, 2011

This is going to be a short review. I am thoroughly uninterested in this movie. Uninterested to the point of questioning this whole project. The only thing I can see about this movie that explains why we own it is the Coen Brothers. Otherwise it really isn’t at all the sort of movie either of us set out to watch. If it hadn’t been directed by the Coens, would Andy have bought it? I have no idea. I certainly wouldn’t have. Even knowing who directed it I would never have gone out and bought it. Because it’s not at all my taste. It’s a tense crime thriller and it’s a western. It’s a movie about good and largely innocent people getting brutally murdered by a sociopath. That’s not fun for me. That’s not fun at all.

I spent two hours tonight watching a movie that held no interest for me. Sure, I like Tommy Lee Jones, but not enough to watch this movie solely for him. It’s got a cast full of people I’m mildly interested in and they give excellent performances. It’s got a well written script but it’s a well written script telling a story I’m not drawn to. It’s got good cinematography and good directing and it is, overall, a very nicely crafted movie. It is an excellent example of its genre. And I didn’t enjoy one single minute of it. It’s not that I actively disliked it. This isn’t like Punch Drunk Love where I felt like a hideous movie was cheating me out of enjoying the gorgeous cinematography. And it isn’t like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where I could see how it would be a beautiful movie to other people but so thoroughly disturbed me that I couldn’t take away from it what other people did. No. I get this movie. I just don’t care about it because it isn’t for me.

And I don’t say it isn’t for me because of demographics or anything like that. It’s that the things that people enjoy about this movie aren’t my personal taste. They aren’t antithetical to my tastes. They just exist somewhere not in the same part of the Venn diagram that I occupy. I’m finding it hard to even muster up the interest in recounting the plot here. Why bother? Anyone who cares about this movie or is looking for something like it probably wouldn’t bother reading my review. But here’s the basic rundown: Llewellyn Moss is a hunter and welder who, by accident, happens upon the site of a drug deal gone bad. Several trucks, several bodies, a pick-up bed full of heroin and a valise full of money all point to someone not getting what they wanted and everyone paying for it. And that’s a good way to sum up this whole movie. Llewellyn goes home but can’t help thinking about that money. So in the middle of the night he goes back out and gets it, and for his trouble he ends up hunted down by a hit man hired to get the money back.

Llewellyn gets chased by an attack dog, which is a pretty firm clue that someone’s going to come looking for him. He sends his wife away and starts running, figuring if he can find a safe spot he can hole up and wait for the man coming to get him and get the hit man first. But the hit man isn’t just a hired gun. He’s a sociopath. Anton Chigurh kills people with a bolt gun normally used to kill livestock. And he kills people all the time. He needs a car so he kills a driver who stops for him. He kills almost everyone he encounters. He is implacable and unstoppable and he has a job to do and he’s going to do it. If I was so inclined, I’m sure I could do a fascinating character study on Chigurh and his personal code of conduct, his Two-Face-esque coin flipping and his choice of weapon. But I don’t really care about him. He’s in this movie to be the bogeyman.

Moss runs and Chigurh chases and while they do that Moss’ wife goes to her mother’s, which ends up being far from safe. Because this is a movie where horrible things happen to people who’ve done nothing wrong and I knew from the beginning what was going to happen there. I knew what was going to happen from the very beginning. This isn’t a movie where the good guys win, I’m sorry to say. That’s not the point. I don’t know if I could accurately describe the real point, but it’s definitely not about the underdog winning because good should prevail. Which is pretty depressing, but there you go.

The events of the movie are largely trailed by a sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. He’s close to retirement and jaded from the horrible things he’s seen and read about. And right from the start, when he sees the evidence of the drug deal gone bad and a subsequent execution of two more men he seems to know that the whole ordeal will end poorly for many people. He never seems hopeful that things will turn out okay for anyone. He just tries his best to keep things from turning out as horribly as they could. And he doesn’t seem to succeed, really. The movie ends on him, talking about a dream he had about his father. And it’s a bleak ending. A bleak ending for a grim movie I never wanted to watch and regret spending time on. An excellently crafted grim movie, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy having spent my evening watching it.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 2 Comments

No Country for Old Men

June 6, 2011

No Country for Old Men

In my time at Blockbuster I had a habit of buying Oscar winning or nominated movies with the intention of watching them at some point in the undefined future. I didn’t always get around to them. Actually – I almost never got around to them. The sad fact of the matter is that in general the kind of movie that wins Oscars is not really my cup of tea. The academy of arts and sciences seems to lean towards serious, intense and often very dark movies. As a result of this behavior I have a bunch of movies in my collection that I’ve just never had the urge to watch all the way through. Movies like Capote and Brokeback Mountain and There Will Be Blood and The Wrestler. And this movie.

The truth is that I have tried to watch this before. I love a good Coen Brothers movie and of course many people had raved about this when it came out. I love Tommy Lee Jones, and I had heard how awesome and powerful Javier Bardem was as the ruthless and unstoppable hit man in this film. It’s not a feel good movie though. It’s not quirky or strange or funny. It’s a brutal suspense crime thriller – sort of a return to Blood Simple but relying less on being slick or cool or edgy. Instead it is gritty, brutal and realistic – relying on its simplicity and sparse detail rather than on the Coen Brothers’ usual camera tricks and style.

This is pretty much a western set at the end of the seventies. A massive drug deal goes bad in the Arizona desert with a whole mess of people killed and two million dollars in cash st stake. As with much of the movie we only see the aftermath – a hunter tracking game through the wilderness comes upon the carnage and eventually finds the valise with all the cash in it. Llewelyn Moss is a simple self sufficient man, and although he knows it’s probably a pretty stupid movie he can’t pass up that money. So he takes it. And soon he has the Mexican drug cartel and American crime boss who both want the money after him. Most disastrously though he has a brutal and completely cold blooded killer out for him as well.

Anton Chigurh, the killer played by Javier Bardem, is a force of nature. He kills the two mob agents who hire him to hunt down the money, just because killing is what he does. He travels with a strange silenced shotgun and a pneumatic gun designed to slaughter cattle. Every person he comes across ends up dead – and he kills them all with quiet efficiency. What’s so fascinating about this character is that he appears so rational. One of the other characters in the movie says that he seems to have a sort of twisted code that he lives by. Chigurh is so terrifying because he is so steadfast and sure of himself and so befuddled by what appears to him to be the irrelevant ramblings of his victims. He seems genuinely puzzled as to why they keep telling him that he doesn’t have to do this, because in his mind clearly he does.

All this is wrapped up in a bleak kind of fatalistic atmosphere by the sheriff who has been following the unfolding events. Tommy Lee Jones is Sheriff Bell, the man who knows what’s going on and finds himself powerless to stop it. The most human moments in the movie, and the sentiment behind the title, all come from Bell’s sense that the world has become darker, more violent, more brutal and that his sensible form of law enforcement is no longer sufficient. He tries to keep things under control, and most of the time he’s the only character who seems to understand everything that’s going on. His final monologue, which has nothing to do at all with the events in the movie but everything to do with the sentiment, is as affecting and powerful a piece of acting as I have ever witnessed.

I do like this movie. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I like it. I like it for its craft, for the performances. It’s a movie full of long silences, powerful tension, intense larger-than-life people. There are great huge expanses of the film that have no dialog at all, where we just get to experience the action with the characters, following their thought process. It’s unusual to find a movie that has virtually no musical score, and that’s part of what adds to the power of this film. It’s a kind of heightened reality that works so perfectly to communicate the brutal and unforgiving world depicted here.

Once again, as so often happens, the Coen Brothers have created something powerful and unique. Equal parts Unforgiven and Touch of Evil. It’s all about alienation and cruelty and the evil that people are capable of. It’s not thrilling or uplifting, and it doesn’t leave you feeling better at the end than you did when you started out – and that’s unusual for a big budget film. It’s why it won a mess of Oscars and ended up in our collection. I won’t say that I’m going to be watching it very often, but it is an achievement and I’m glad that I own it.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment