Monday, September 15, 2008

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
























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.

2 comments:

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.