Monday, September 15, 2008


I finally caught this on DVD. (I don't get out that much. A trip to the video store is a big event around my house.)

I had heard that the movie is great up until the ending, which I heard described as confusing and pointless. I can understand the confusion, because the movie fakes you out. It's pretending to be a certain kind of film that you've seen a million times. The kind that only flirts with existential dread. When Tommy Lee Jones showed up early on, I actually said to my wife, "Oh, it's Tommy Lee Jones, everything's going to be all right now". Which is exactly what I was supposed to think.

Like the motorist pulled over by the police cruiser in an early scene, you respond automatically to certain signals that reassure you that a safety net is in place. But the safety net hasn't held, and the tent around you is on fire. The film leaves you standing, slack-jawed and dull-eyed like cattle, watching the bolt aimed at your brain but failing to understand its purpose until it's too late.


daveednyc said...

I've been hearing all this talk about how the Coen brothers are such "pranksters" in their films. Inside jokes, plot twists, dark humor. I see them as satirists, but whatever.

Did you get a sense (and I've not seen No Country but know the ending, regrettably) that they were playing a prank here too?

Kevie said...

Absolutely not! I should have made this clearer but I didn't want to drone on.

(Spoilers) The film is a meditation on the feeling of helplessly watching the world going to hell, and how fragile a human being's fate is. What makes it powerful is that you think it's another neo-noir like Fargo, i.e. no matter how fucked up things get, the forces of light and civilization will kick in eventually and re-establish order. But life doesn't necessarily work that way. Sometimes the bad guy gets away. Sometimes the forces of good are too old and tired, or they show up a minute too late to the shootout.

Just when you think the movie is going to reassure you, it drops you into a pit of darkness and dread and rolls the credits.