Monday 11 February 2008

Review: No Country For Old Men

Year: 2008
Directors: The Coens
Screenwriters: The Coens
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald

*Note: Spelling to be edited.

With an Ending that will frustrate as much as it will inspire, No Country For Old Men sees the borther Coen going back to what many have said is a return to form. After the lukewarm reception given for The Ladykillers, the brothers became hard to trace, however the Coens are directors who make films for themself. Love them or hate them, the don't make cookie cutter material for everyone, thats why we have the Waynes Brothers.

The Coen's latest film is a Western which deals with a cat and mouse plot involing Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) who discovers a brotched drug deal in the desert. He finds the money from the deal and decides to take it and run. However a hitman (Bardem) who has escaped arrest is asked to claim the money back and will stop at nothing to get it back. Sherrif Bell falls in on the plot and gets on the case to try and intervine.

Thats a fairly basic synopsys of the film. Hardly a film that should last over 2 hours long when explaned like that in this day and age. The Coens however are big fans of the odd and unconventional and their "crime film" is a metaphyical story about fate and running from it.
I watched this with my girlfriend who HATED the movie. she found it way too long, many scenes meaningless and the story dull. She couldn't get why certain scenes were in there. I can understand what she means. You see scenes that just wouldn't be in a lesser film. However these scenes are nessercery to the film as the film is not about the surface story it's about the characters, it's about what they say, what they do, how and why.

Other films would short cut across the aspects that the Coens use to make the film stand out. The audience would place their focus on the "good guy" and the money and not spend time with him. Desire + Goal = Get there. But No Country is a intense character study which tells us that the world can still be a lawless place and that the future is an uncertain one.

The scenes are meticulous and done in such a fine detail it's impossible not to admire, even if you dislike the movie. Characters sound like people and act like people, not like robots who enter scenes explain the story to the audience (like they can't see it on the screen) and then head to the next scene. The Coens way of telling the story in No Country is lyical and realistic. The scenes my girlfriend pointed out as meaningless are not to me because they are there to advance the characters not the next plot point. Ethan and Joel wish for you to spend time with their characters. The money and the goal isn't the important thing it is what these people are doing.
The performances have had many a superlative thrown at them and it's easy to see why. Bardem plays his role not just as a villian but a 3-dimentional one. He is not dimissed as typical Micheal Myers type, but as almost as death himself, the look in his eye is one of absolute malviolence.

Brolin also has an engaging presence in the lead role. Brolin manages to balence small town nauces with smarts as well. He does a fine job carry most of the time, much of it saying very little. Something that people see less of as for the need to have characters talk contasntantly. Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant as the well worn sherrif, his voice perfect for the witty dialouge that transpires throughout the film while Kelly Macdoland is almost unreconizable as Moss' wife. Expect an amusing cameo from Woodly Harlison also.

The film (shot by Roger Deakins) is goregous to look at, with many moments re-capturing the feel of old westerns perfectly. I probably won't see a better looking film at the cinema this year. Add this to the small time dialouge, attenion to detail and lycial pace to the movie and you have another piece of Coen brilliance. No Country is intense and brutal in the right places, smatt, witty and in love with it's characters.

The ending will piss people off but it doesn't matter. The Coens wish to show of their love for small town America and how complex life gets when people try to choose their fate.