Friday, November 09, 2007

November 9, 2007
Went to the screening of No Country For Old Men last night at the Harkins 101 in Scottsdale. First of all, I have to say, the Coen brothers are brilliant, and this is their best film since Fargo. Their movie making skills are just awesome. The shootouts in this film are way beyond 3:10 To Yuma and, in fact, all of the tense, action sequences land like mortar shells somewhere just shy of, no, make that right in the middle of Saving Private Ryan..

The acting across the board is flawless, from Javier Barden as the villain Anton Chigurh to Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell, to Kelly Macdonald who does a spot on Texas accent (she's from Scotland!). Even the supporting roles shine, with a deft and satisfying cameo by Barry Corbin as an old Texas lawman. Hell, even the service station attendant who comes this close to getting offed, is perfect (better than the book!).

And don't forget the dark humor of the Coen brothers, which oozes out of the violence with more than one turn by the motel attendants, popular surplus clerks and Western clothing store clerks is downright hilarious ("How are those Larrys holding up" a Western store guy says to Josh Brolin as he walks in wearing only his underwear and a pair of Larry Mahan boots).

The problem with the film is the same problem I had with the book. You have a great chase story with a bad-ass villain, a wonderful, oldtime sheriff (Jones) who, by his own admission is "overmatched," and a resilient Vietnam vet who we are identifying with and rooting for, and we get nothing at the end. No showdown, we don't even see the protagonist meet his fate.

Just like Cormac McCarthy's books, we get beautiful words and settings and a weak story. Just to give you an idea, the audience last night kind of gasped at the end, like they were surprised it was over. "That's it?" they seemed to say in unison.

Of course, this kind of reversal of expectation always plays well with Awards Shows so I expect No Country will rake in the statues.

Another audience note: when the camera pans a drug deal gone south, we see bullet riddled Broncos and sprayed blood and scattered bodies littering the scene. The dead guys are in grotesque positions, and it's very graphic, with stunt flies on their eyes and everything. Well, as we pan across this slaughter of human life, we come upon a dead dog and all the women in the audience wince, out loud. It's so funny, because here's maybe fifteen or twenty dead men and the sympathy goes to the Doberman. Ha.

Still, I really enjoyed the movie. Both Kathy and I gave it an 8.5 on a scale of one to ten.

"I'm in the cattle business and the horse business. I don't get to town very often, and I don't hear much."
—Tommy Lee Jones, when asked about the "Oscar talk" on this film

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