Wednesday, November 28, 2007

C.A.R.: No Country For Old Men

(Capsule Arthouse Reviews are my attempt to better myself and practice movie snobbery by watching less mainstream movies and more independent films. Not a true review, they're mainly my thoughts on various small run films. I still give an opinion about whether the film is worth watching or not, but keep in mind my cinema taste is janky at best. You can also expect mild spoilers so beware.)

No Country For Old Men fills me with a lot of conflicting thoughts. On one hand, this film is currently one of the highest rated movies over at IMDB. It's definitely a good film, but I'm not sure it warrants the 9.0 or so it currently has over there. (Keep in mind that I have not read the book this film is adapted from.)

Like Lust, Caution, this film does a great job at transporting the viewer to a different time and place, namely 1980s Texas. It actually took me a while to realize this film is even set in the past, due to the fact that I have never been to modern day Texas. The film is set in what appears to be smaller town/cities located near the Mexican border.

What I found particularly interesting about this film is how (like American Gangster) it encourages the audience to emphasize and root for individuals on the wrong side of the law. I suppose you could argue that the protagonist of the film, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) wasn't truly on the wrong side of the law. However in taking the drug money he clearly crosses the line. The assassin, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is portrayed as a strong, virtually unstoppable force in clear contrast to the aging, increasingly powerless Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). On a certain level you have to admire Chigurh for sticking to his (twisted) ideals of fate and murder. He is the only character in this film who refuses to compromise.

Texas slang and accents aside, there are several times during the film in which I felt pretty lost. Chief among them is the motel confrontation scene when Ed Tom Bell may or may not have been in the same room as Anton Chigurh. I guess I could chalk this up to not having read the book, but I feel a good adaptation should not require reading the source book. The Harry Potter series of films are excellent in this regard, but they do not revolve around adult themes like No Country For Old Men.

One thing I found surprising about this film was the high body count. I suppose I'm stereotyping arthouse films, but the body count in this film easily reaches the double digits. While certainly not a focus of the film, the weaponry Chigurh uses adds to his appeal. Most of his victims fall to a silenced shotgun, something I have not seen in films for quite a while, though the film IS set in the 80s. In a super cool and original touch, Chigurh also uses a captive bolt pistol to not only kill people but blow out deadlocks to gain entry to rooms.

A lot of people are complaining about the ending to this film, but I think it's fitting. The whole point to this film is that there's really little to no point in life and getting old only highlights that. Ed Tom Bell discussing his dreams at the very end reveal the central themes of the movie though I felt his conversation with another old guy was more poignant.

Would I recommend seeing this film despite my doubts about its IMDB rating? A resounding yes; this is a good film. It may be over hyped, but that doesn't mean it's not worth watching. A friend of mine pointed out to me there is no soundtrack to this film, and that alone is amazing because I certainly never noticed this during my viewing. That this film can convey its characters and theme without any music whatsoever speaks volumes about how highly crafted it is. I can totally see why people are fans of the Cohen brothers now.

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