Thursday, January 28, 2010

No Country for Old Men [2007]

Plenty has been said about this film – so I’m not going to give you my traditional style of review – I’m just going to kind of explain my experience with the film – what I understand – what I don’t.

First time I saw this film – I walked out of the theater feeling embarrassed because I thought I fell asleep – and my friend was being kind and denied that I was asleep. Till just recently – I couldn’t understand what was so special about this film – and I still think the hype hurts this film more than it should – but after two subsequent viewings – I get it now.

I think.

Llewelyn stumbles upon the aftermath of a gunfight – where there are virtually no survivors – with the exception of one dying man begging for water. Knowing there must be something special around for all these people to be dead – he tries to determine where the last man standing is – and finds a case full of money. Later that night after he gets home - he realizes that if that dying man survives to tell someone that he was sniffing around – he’d be in real trouble.

He goes back to the scene – only to be discovered and chased by another group of men. Realizing he’s not going to be safe – he sends his wife away to be safe with her mother – and he goes on the run. How right he is – because an unreasonably violent man named Anton Chigurh is coming after him for the money.

I think what threw me so completely my first viewing – is that I was expecting an “ah-ha” moment to be verbalized by some character – and shared with the audience. The problem was all the “ah-ha” moments were internalized – the Cohen Brothers kind of expect you to be right there in the moment with the characters – and thinking along the same lines.

The other thing that threw me is the Chigurh character – he doesn’t really appear to have any driving motivation to him other than to get the money – even though he’s not running around saying “give me the money”. He’s really scary in that sense – he’s got no conscience – no sense to the viewer that he has a stopping point. He can’t be reasoned with or sent off course in any way. You get the sense that even if he gets the money the parties responsible for inconveniencing him in the process – will be killed. He’s crazy – but is too reasoned and calm to appear crazy – and that’s what’s scary.

As you can see I really haven’t mentioned the Sheriff character at all – and that’s because I’m not sure if I would call him the glue that makes the story come together – or if he’s the commentator that helps us justify the story. Some places I’ve read that he should be considered the “good guy” or the “main character” – which is interesting considering – his impact to the story is minimal. He’s certainly interesting as a character in the story – but maybe not as necessary to the conflict.

Then I start to think that the glue is the Llewelyn character – that holds the story of the “good guy” and the “bad guy” together – but it’s so difficult to put your finger on it since none of the characters ever share the screen.

I lean more towards the sheriff being the “glue” that holds the story together in a more above the fray narrator sort of way. He will wax poetically about the condition of the world – and then we’d go back into the violent chase between Llewelyn and Chigurh.

What I have really learned to appreciate about the film is the stark realism of it. I consider it a chase film – but I would imagine in real life – not every chase involves cars screeching down the highway – shooting out the windows at each other. I would imagine a more accurate real life chase would be – the chaser is always just a step behind the person being chased – just like this film. They may have just crossed paths and there’s not a bunch of unbelievable coincidences that link them and bring them together – but a rare coincidence.

I’ve also heard a theory about Chigurh – that I think is a bit stretching the character and implying things that aren’t really there – this is the one where Chigurh is the personification of death. On one hand if you beat death at his “game” (the coin flip) he’ll let you live – but that would also imply that everyone who crosses his path is marked which obviously – not everyone dies. I just think he’s scarier as an unstoppable person with no understandable morals.

So, now that I’ve seen the film 3 times – and got a better grasp – I quite like it and would rate it much higher than I did previously – but I’m still confused about some of the hype – but I’m more than happy to take Paul’s advice and “let it be”.

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