Saturday, February 16, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Hasta La Vista

The second movie watched today is also released by Paramount Vintage and Miramax, and shares with There Will Be Blood, eight Academy Award nominations, in a fight for most of the major honours. The brothers Coen's new film have been gathering wave after wave of honours, but somehow it didn't really quite work for me, despite the premise being something I would go for, and most likely to have enjoyed.

Don't get me wrong though, there are again briliant moments in the movie that I enjoyed, but on the whole, it was the unsatisfying anti-climatic finale that did it in for me, with too convenient a coincidence arising from a random act, and a frustrating interpret-it-if-you-please treatment that those who are more actively cerebral will get a field day deciphering and debating all the underlying meaning that make up the movie.

Much is said about Javier Bardem's Anton Chugurh, and I'm agreeable with the nods to his understated portrayal as a modern day, flesh and bones Terminator, who's armed with a gas powered hammer gun used to send cattle to heaven, and a high powered rifle with silencer attached. His target is 2 million dollars in a suitcase, coming from a deal with Mexican druglords turn awry, which Josh Brolin's Llewelyn Moss happened to steal away when he chanced upon a zero sum game in the middle of an open plain. So it's somewhat cat and mouse chase, with Terminator Chugurh after Moss to seek out those stacks of 100 dollar greenbacks, and sending those unfortunate good natured folks to heaven/hell should they come crossing his path. But I have to admit that the gun battling duels and confrontation between Chugurh and Llewelyn are tension filled enough to leave you at the edge of your seat.

If There Will Be Blood talks about money, No Country for Old Men talks about violence, or the random senselessness of it all. Through Chigurh's extremely focused quest, we become bewildered and numbed when he dispatches his victim without batting an eyelid, with little opportune of mercy being shown. As Tommy Lee Jones' Sheriff Bell, in a supporting role as yet another jaded cop who is world weary, notes in his daily reading of the news, wacky incidents often get reported because of the help of curious onlookers, but those which often involve a crime, somehow never get the all important second look.

This is not your usual narrative story with expected conventions. You come to expect something in the way the movie is built up by the Coens, but more often than not, it stops short, deliberately of course. There are some wonderful moments on its own, with scenes that are witty, and filled with a wicked sense of black humour. But ultimately, it's quite open ended for vast interpretation, and leaving you with questions that don't get answered. The ending is one of frustration for me, but come Oscar time, there isn't a doubt why this movie has been the darling of so many critical circles, and is probably expected to bag an Oscar award, or two.

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