Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Country for Old Men

“It’s a mess ain’t it sheriff.”
“If it ain’t it’ll do ‘til the mess gets here

Brutally violent, with eloquently scripted dialogue and sumptuously cinematography No Country for Old Men has all the pieces in place for a great film, but although it’s certainly a very good film it loses much of its momentum over the course of its two-hour running time ending with more of a whimper than a bang.

The story begins when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers the remains of a drug deal gone wrong and finds $2 million in cash. A moment of conscience leads to him being marked by both sides after the money and LLewelyn sends his wife (Kelly Macdonald) to her mother’s (Beth Grant) as he takes to the road to stay one step ahead of a hitman (Javier Bardem) who knows his name and always seems only one-step behind.

The film begins in terrific fashion and the dialogue is perfect, especially the simple scenes between Llewelyn and Carla Jean (MacDonald). I wish she had a larger role in the film because the two work so well together. Bardem puts in a strong performance as the mysterious sociopathic hitman.

If I have a complaint with Bardem it’s how we learn too much about his character and his mysterious dread is replaced by an almost cartoonish Tarrantino ridiculousness that takes much of the menace away from him. And the film has some minor recurring characters (played by Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson) that, although well performed, seem to keep getting in the way of the main storyline in an attempt to do the now ever popular Crash-style juggling of different stories of individuals each dealing with their own issues (read that review).

My other complaints are harder to describe as they involve events from the films final act and to list them here I would have to give away too many secrets of the film. Instead let me say simply that the film runs out of gas well before it ends and leaves many questions unanswered before ending with a discussion of a cryptic dream sequence that left me more bored than intrigued.

There have been similar films in recent years including the Coen’s own Fargo and Sam Raimi‘s A Simple Plan which do as good a job if not better given similar resources and storylines. The film is certainly good, but I still felt disappointed as it ended. So much of the promise of the film isn’t fulfilled and so many questions and storylines are left up in the air (in a more mainstream Hollywood film I would have expected “To Be Continued” in large caps). The last half-hour of the film, in which many of these questions are ignored, seems rushed as if the film was cut for time and is now missing several crucial scenes. But what the film does well it does very well. It’s a very good film, which could have been great, but still is worth seeing, and discussing. Is it the Coen’s return to glory? Not really, but it’s a good first step.

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