No Country For Old Men (2007, Coens)

Not quite what I’d expected. Thrilling, tense, exciting movie. Brolin and Bardem are impassive Western types, TL Jones is unexpectedly the protagonist. Hardly any music. Good chase scenes in river (brolin vs. a dog) and on abandoned city streets at night (vs. bardem).

TV star Garret Dillahunt played Tommy’s deputy. Kelly Macdonald, who I did not recognize from “Tristram Shandy”, was Brolin’s wife. I knew I’d seen Brolin somewhere… he was a lead in “Planet Terror” (and in The Goonies). Stephen Root as “man who hires Wells”.

On the way home, I was pondering the storyline, decided out loud that while most movies tell you “these are some things that happened”, this movie instead says “this is the way things are.” But I don’t remember what I meant by that.

P. Nugent of Screengrab says about the Coens/Fargo:
“I tend to think of the Coens as surface guys who put an incredible amount of conscious planning into the physical details of their movies, and who are inhumanly aware of how they expect both critics and audiences to respond to their cleverness. It might sound as if I’m one of those people who sometimes badmouth the Coens for being ‘merely’ clever, but cleverness is something I’m all for; at the very least, it sure beats lack of imagination. … Fargo is a smart, impressive movie, but it is also a movie outside what I think of as their best range, and a movie that I think they made for the outside world, a movie pitched at the mainstream.”

Great paragraph from E. Kuersten from his year-end roundup in Bright Lights:
“The Coens love circles… who doesn’t? In NO COUNTRY, locks come flying off in all directions leaving beautiful round holes in which to have light issue, peeping tom doors of perception through which one is able to read at least one thing: a circle! The hula hoops in HUDSUCKER, the hair cream tins in BROTHER; the hubcaps in MAN WHO WASN’T THERE… What do they mean? Exactly! Take ZODIAC, the amazing police procedural that disappears into the same plot void which drowned the old LEBOWSKI. Again, all you’re left with in the end is the shuddering realization that “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is the scariest song ever written. And then in the other corner, you’ve got Tommy Lee Jones playing more or less the same character in both NO COUNTRY and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, that is to say, the leather face of America as it looks off from the Medusa-eye view of the circular zodiac watch screen and crumbles to dust. There’s no easy answers, not no more.”

UPDATE: Watched again April ’08 under slightly adverse conditions. Not as caught up in the tension of the thing this time. I admire it as a technical achievement, great acting and direction, but I’ve been veering more towards Black Book because BB has all of those things as well as Something To Say. I’m not sure that No Country is saying anything valuable, and I’m not sure that the Tommy Lee Jones bits pondering the death of decent human behavior offers enough food for thought to outweigh the rest of the film’s constant reveling in human misbehavior.

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