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Dec 9, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: No Country for Old Men

The reviews are inescapable, and they are overwhelmingly positive. You get it...you've been beaten over the head with it: No Country for Old Men is superfantabulexcellenterrific.
Well, yes and no.

No Country certainly stands as one of the high points of the Coen brothers career, which certainly says something considering their resume (I'd rank it third probably, after Lebowski and Fargo). That said, it has a giant elephant-in-the-room sized issue that it seems not enough people have a problem with.

The way I see it, there are three types of people with three different interpretations of the last act of No Country. The first group is "people who have read the book." I assume this group is small. They most likely "get" what happens.

The second group is people like me (and the three people I saw the film with). We openly criticized the finale, questioning a number of the choices made, not to mention trying to interpret certain things. We could be classified as "morons who want everything explained," but for some reason I don't like that term, so I'm going to shift blame to either the Coens or the book's author - and considering I don't know how the book ends, I'll just assume both are guilty.
The third group has it all figured out and/or likes the ambiguity. They hate when plot details are spelled out like Alphabits. They like the fact that the movie just kind of trails off...

...and ends when the viewer isn't paying much attention.

Generally speaking, I wouldn't place myself in any of these groups. I obviously didn't read the book (and don't read a ton of books anyway), so I can't go to the former group. I actually don't like cookie-cutter Scooby-Doo endings that insult my intelligence, so I don't usually lump myself into the second group. As for the third - they would probably love Southland Tales, which makes even less sense than the last twenty minutes of No Country. These people generally like to classify those that don't "get" it as idiots, and are themselves considered snobs and/or assholes. I don't usually like those people, either.

Short story long, No Country for Old Men is Fargo in Texas - Humor. Which is fine. In fact, it's more than fine - the performances (by the way, have you heard that Javier Bardem co-stars as Anton Chigurh, and is awesome? No, really!) are top-notch across the board, only leaving you wanting more from all involved (Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root are amongst those that are criminally underused). The setting, mood and cinematography are all spectacular, each overshadowing the simplistic plot. But the end...not the worst ever by a long stretch, but probably amongst the worst ever for such a potentially great film (See Sunshine from earlier this year for another example of this - though that ending probably was amongst the worst ever).

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

6 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: No Country for Old Men"

Adam said...

I want to see this and "Sunshine."

Yeah, Javier Bardem is getting all kinds of publicity. I'd be surprised if he doesn't walk out of the Oscars w/ something this year.

Robb said...

I saw the movie with my mom, who is in the "read the book" club, so she was able to explain the ending to me. I didn't like her version, which was also pretty vague, so I made up my own where the guy stumbles into a garage and bleeds to death. And then a pit bull eats him. And before he dies he gets stung by a swarm of killer bees. Or something along those lines, anything really is better than just trailing off like that.

Complaints aside, I really enjoyed it. The Coens are pretty awesome. Fargo made me laugh so it wins, but I still really enjoyed this. Bonus: Josh Brolin was in Goonies! I love that movie!

David said...

I can not wait to see this movie. I liked your review and have only heard good things about it. Sorry, but I think I would fall into group three. I love it when a great movie leaves you hanging as long as it was a great movie and there is not a chance of a third one. It is not because I necessarily know what is going on, but it is more about the fact that I get to decide. Much like books, you get to decide what things look like and when they make the movie (Lord of The Rings perhaps) then you see how the director thought that it would look. The same goes with the ending of a movie; the director will tell you what he thinks or maybe he wants you to decide. Please ignore all of this if it does not make sense. Once I actually see the movie I will likely have a better idea of what I am saying.

Fletch said...

Robb - The Big Lebowski tops my Coen list, with Fargo coming in second and No Country probably coming in third (though honestly, it's been way too long since I've seen Barton Fink, Blood Simple or Miller's Crossing, and I have yet to see The Man Who Wasn't There).

David - I didn't want to give too much about the movie about, but suffice it to say that my issues aren't necessarily with the way it ends, but with the events leading up to the end. Though the final scene did bother me...see it and I'll share more.

David said...

Yeah, that is what happens when you talk about something you do not know anything about. I will get back to you when I actually see it. I appreciate you not giving any of the movie away. Thanks.

Mike said...

See, I liked No Country for Old Men much better than Fargo as it seemed, through the character of Bell (arguably the novel's protagonist), to be less nihilistic. There's no doubt that it's pessimistic, but there seemed to be more of a comment on judgment/restitution in relation to chance and association. For me, Fargo (a film that I feel was incredibly well-made, although not one that I like) seemed to show otherwise decent people doing heinous crap with exponentially devastating results. And no explanation other than human weakness. At least through Bell there is context and an understanding that the 'times they are a changin'.

Now The Man who wasn't there... that's one of my favs. It's got all the tragedy, quirkiness, and artsy brilliance mingled with sarcastic chic. Plus you can watch it with your mother in-law.