Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No Country For Old Men

This film, much like True Grit, is basically a carbon copy of the novel put to life with outstanding cinematography and great performances. I have not read True Grit but I have read No Country For Old Men and it is very similar. However, the book is not particularly great it is simply mildly interesting but sort of standardfare, especially considering Cormac McCarthy's other works which are predominantly outstanding. The book brings every element and image from the novel to life in an incredibly compelling way.

Anton Chigurh is the first pure evil villain I believe I've discussed in depth so far. I said some time ago that Iago is the template for every motiveless villain and Iago himself is a reflection of the conception of Satan. There is a certain beauty in portraying this sort of villain, not one who acts for lust or vengeance or greed or any simply human notions, but one who acts for the sake of it. The enormous amounts of violence doled out by Chigurh in this film are, from his perspective, granted to those who deserve it for very nebulous reasons to say the least. I believe we've been somewhat spoiled by this sort of villain of late, Daniel Plainview is somewhat close (though with the initial motivation of greed it is rather unclear whether that is actually why he does what he does), The Joker is a perfect imitation, and Hans Landa is a good, if imperfect due to one inexplicable scene, reproduction. Nothing is more terrifying than a dangerous man who acts to create chaos for the sake of it.

All of that said Javier Bardem's performance is good in the role, particularly in this scene, and I'm certain he deserved the Oscar much as Daniel Day Lewis deserved his. However the Coen's essentially create the entire film around him and the cinematography and characters all contribute to his existence as a horrifying being. His performance in and of itself isn't as great as some of the other cinematic devils discussed but the character is legendary as a result. It is difficult to create "the Ultimate Badass" without constructing a world around him, so the Coens deserve extra points for how impressive Chigurh is as a character.

Chigurh aside this film is a very well constructed chase thriller. It is possibly the best thriller ever to be produced, and while I don't think it stands up to specific masterpieces of cinema it is certainly wonderful in its own right. Josh Brolin finds a satchel of money and has to stay on the run from various agents who chase him, including Chigurh, however he's a former Sniper from Vietnam (not fully explained in the film but explained in the book) and has excellent survival instincts. The film quickly becomes a conflict between the able but imperfect man and the demon, but chance itself has a role to play much like Chigurh's coin. Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver excellent performances which aren't as enhanced by the presentation of the film itself, and I feel either could have also won best supporting actor in a different year.

The largest question about this film becomes is it better than There Will Be Blood, as every other movie that year was vastly inferior to these 2 peculiar masterworks. There is only one severe tiebreaker I've discovered and that is the score in There Will Be Blood will make you want to gorge your eyes out while No Country does perfectly fine with no score whatsoever. Without that it's very much a wash and I wouldn't want to have to pick one over the other with both being equally deserving. I would rate both films at the same score even now though I will say No Country is very slightly better.

Final Score: 9.5/10

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