Friday, March 21, 2008

Second Look: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men ****
Directed, Written and Produced by Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones

"What the most you've ever lost in a coin toss?"

Those were the brooding words spoken by Javier Bardem. He played Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer who sometimes decides if he's going to kill a person by means of a coin toss. Now he's no Terminator; he is human, but he acts like he's from another planet. He uses manners in a rather upfront manner and his appearance seems to be a mistake. He's like an alien whose doing a bad job of convincing you that he's human. Now this movie is not about Anton Chigurh, which Javier Bardem did a terrific job of playing. This film is about Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam Vet who has just stumbled upon $2 million worth of drug money. He doesn't know it now, but he has just unleashed the wrath of Anton Chigurh. The only thing that might stop them, is a sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who thinks that the world has just gotten out of hand.

No Country for Old Men is a film directed by the Coen Brothers, best known for their dark film with a humorous backbone. You can't put them into a genre, even though they have some genre definitions, they do not follow them. No Country follows that idea. I can only sum it up as a "Western Noir", as that tag is the closest thing I can put on film like this. It follows the Western formula in the way that there's a sheriff, a man in distress, and a truly evil villain. It follows the Noir formula pretty well, too. Llewelyn Moss is the typical noir anti-hero. He stumbles into the dark world of crime, and is perpetually trapped. Still, No Country is not like those film. In Western, the sheriff and the person or persons he saving get out alive and order is restored. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell retires early after not being able to save Llewelyn. In noir, the characters are trapped. Lleweyn Moss travels through the vast spaces of West Texas and Mexico. The only noir element it follows is that Moss dies, and the feeling of doom you see at every moment.

People have complained about the ending. It has no closure; It doesn't make sense; I don't get it; Blah, Blah, Blah. In film where the villain is an unstoppable killing machine, who never laughs, never boasts, and can make a car bomb out of a cloth doused in gasoline, odd are in favor of him. Not Llewelyn Moss, who belives he can beat Chigurh. Not Ed Tom Bell, who can't accept the world as the way it is. The audience who did not get the ending are like Ed Tom Bell. They cannot accept the world as a horrible dark place. At the end, Ed finally realizes that he has lost, and it's not because the world has changed. It's because he will not admit to the terror that happens, the terror that always happened, even in time where boys held doors for women.

Now onto the existential and nihilistic elements of this film. You never see a twist in this film, because it's obvious that there is no point for a twist. Llewelyn doesn't die by the grace of God, but by a group of Mexican drug smugglers. I'll be honest. I believe in God, yet this film can seriously convince me that he doesn't exist. This film has no hope. Llewelyn Moss is like Ed Tom Bell. He will not admit to the fact the he will die eventually, like most people in this world. We do not admit we will die eventually, only people like Chigurh, who can be seen a messenger of death (I'll get to that later) and Ed's uncle, Ellis. Anton Chigurh, is not Death. He is a mere messenger boy. Throughout the film, the viewer assumes that he is Death. Well, he's not. Chigurh is a human, and it shows. He was injured by Moss, and did survive a car crash. But he's a messenger. Death is kind of like a boss in a tower like the man who hires Wells, Chigurh's nemesis. However, Wells, like Chigurh, is a messenger. A messenger to a false name. The man Wells works for in is not the real Death. Chigurh takes out this blasphemer, and establishes that he knows death, and can bring death. Also, the fact that Chigurh can never be held in custody proves that he is out of this world. You just can't stop what coming to you, and Chigurh justly proves that.

This film was expertly directed by the Coen Brothers, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. No movie is more real than this film. People may be turned off by this film for that reason. There is no hope. Resistance is futile. The only glimmer of hope came when Moss injured Chigurh, but that glimmer faded real fast. That's life for you. Just admit it.

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

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