Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

When I visited my local video store recently I was having a difficult time deciding on what movie I wished to see. Several new titles of interest had been released, yet I knew that there were still some from earlier in the year that I had yet to watch. This thought led to a new problem for me, choosing which not-so new release to pick up. After much internal debating with myself, I finally decided I wanted something that had some substance to it, and wasn’t going to be a movie where I could just turn my brain off and watch it. I wanted a movie that was going to demand my attention, thus I decided I would pick the film chosen as Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, the critically acclaimed “No Country for Old Men”, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”).

“No Country for Old Men” follows an intense couple of days for a man named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who happens to come across a drug deal gone bad and discovers for himself two million dollars in cash. However, taking the money may just prove to be the biggest mistake in his entire life. As a sadistic killer (Javier Bardem) is hot on his trail, and leaving a mess of dead bodies in his wake, the likes of which the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and the West Texas area has never seen.

If there’s one thing I can say with the utmost certainty about “No Country for Old Men”, it’s that this is definitely one film that demands your attention, and if you get too distracted at any point you will quickly become lost in the intricately detailed story. With that in mind, even though I gave the movie my undivided attention, I still found myself somewhat confounded by the events in the closing moments of the movie. For roughly 85% of the film I was right there with it every step of the way, perfectly understanding everything, but in the final five to ten minutes it just got strange for me, and I didn’t quite understand how it had ended. I do believe that I have a decent grasp on it now, having given more thought to the film and even re-watching the final moments, but even with my newfound understanding, it’s still a strange and disappointing ending to what appeared to be a superb film.

That brings me to my problem with this film; I was really into the story and thought that perhaps this was going to be a movie that I would want in my collection, but the ending ruined it for me. For starters I’m somewhat surprised by the fact that I even remotely enjoyed “No Country for Old Men”, because lately it seems that most Best Picture winners and nominees for the Oscars tend to be these high-brow dramas that don’t appeal to me in the least, yet here was the most recent winner enthralling me with its excellent storytelling. I thought the many concepts that the film dealt with, such as fate and/or destiny (which the killer, Anton Chigurh, mentions to many of his victims), the depravity of society as reflected by the more sadistic killers being unleashed upon the world, or how pride always comes before a fall, were all very well presented and thought provoking. Yet, as great as the story was, the extremely unsatisfactory final act and resultant ending that left me puzzled, managed to bring the entire movie to its knees. I believe I am a smart man, and I can’t remember the last time that I watched a movie that left me feeling so stupid because of my inability to grasp what I had just seen, but that’s how this movie made me feel. I understand that the Coen brothers are extremely talented and smart writers, no argument there, but perhaps they could have rethought the final portion of this movie. Not necessarily changing all the events, but at least the final moments that confused me, and from what I’ve heard, it did the same for many other viewers as well.

As far as the acting goes every single performance was fantastic, not a single one felt out of place or off the mark in any way. Josh Brolin (“W.”) convincingly portrays just a down-home, good ol’ country boy who just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and allowed his pride to stand in the way of finding the means to save himself. Veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones once again portrays a law enforcement official, something he has done all too often since winning an Academy Award for “The Fugitive”. At least in this movie Tommy didn’t play the same old guy as he has so many times before. This time around he played an aging lawman who is struggling desperately to find relevance for his brand of justice in a world that has become so dark that it may have passed him by. Javier Bardem (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) delivered a chilling performance as killer Anton Chigurh, a man who believes killing to be a perfectly natural solution to any problem, no matter who or what may be involved. Lastly, Woody Harrelson (“Semi-Pro”) gives a surprisingly strong supporting performance as a man hired to track down Chigurh and stop him by any means necessary. I personally never thought Woody could act all that well, but he definitely brought his A-game to the table in this picture.

“No Country for Old Men” is one of those instances in movies where virtually every element works perfectly together to create an engrossing experience. From the superbly written screenplay, thought-provoking ideas and concepts, and excellent performances, this movie delivers in almost every way imaginable; however, the troublesome final act of the film brings the movie crashing down amidst a cacophony of confusion and disappointment. It’s such an unfortunate fate for such a promising film.

“No Country for Old Men” is rated R for violence and language.

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