Thursday, December 31, 2009

Film Decade List #2: No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men (Joel Coen, USA, 2007)

Up until seeing No Country For Old Men, I had preferred the wackier Coen Brothers to the serious ones. I would much rather watch The Big Lebowski or even The Hudsucker Proxy over Fargo or Miller's Crossing. I always felt the brothers rigid, insular world always lent itself better to comedy than to drama. No Country For Old Men blows that idea completely away, as the two have crafted a taut, near flawless thriller out of Corman McCarthy's novel. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is out hunting one day and comes across a drug deal gone bad. He finds a suitcase full of money, takes off, and a set of violent circumstances follow, most of them carried out by a man named Anton Chigurgh, played with menacing intensity by Javier Bardem. Working as a meditation on the greediness and evil of man, the film is helped by the Coen's meticulous, exacting style. The chaos of the story is reigned in to a serie of memorable moments, especially the Chigurgh coin toss at the end. At the the center of the story is the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), increasingly perplexed and horrified by the trail of destruction left in the wake of Llewelyn and Anton. He's a man who can't see himself being able to contain men such as Chrigurgh. That the world seems to be descending into more violence and humanity is doing nothing to stop it is a key point of McCarthy's novel and the film. The film works as a perfect allegory for that idea. The film gets every other detail right, from the West Texas landscape to the pitch-perfect performances. That it still has some black humor is a nice Coen brothers touch, but this isn't a comedy. It proved me wrong on all grounds about the Coen's films but in a good way.

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