Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Monday, January 28, 2008

No Country for Old Men

I've long been a fan of the Coen brothers' work, so I was keen to see No Country for Old Men, which has been touted by many as a return to form, following a couple of near-duds in the form of The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty.

The fact that the film had Javier Bardem in what I would consider the lead role (shame on you, Academy) was yet another reason to spring £6.50 (US$13) on a ticket for the cinema rather than waiting for the DVD.

The plot is actually far simpler than I had imagined. Dude finds money; another dude wants it back and will kill anyone in his way (and pretty much anyone not in his way, too); a third dude tries to stop second dude from killing first dude (while investigating the multiple other killings along the way).

Anyone expecting profundity will be left wanting, I'm afraid, regardless that the source material comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy. (BTW, I hate how we're awarding writers who are trying to do away with punctuation.) As a comment on society and the effect money has on people, it doesn't work as well as Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan -- though I appreciate that the intent of No Country is more to do with changing times than with greed and the like.

So that's the premise dealt with. What about the performances, direction, mise en scène?

First up, the performances, as you would expect with a cast of this calibre, are truly wonderful. Bardem steals the show, of course. But I will say this to all those banging on about his hairdo: the film is set in 1980. That hair is completely pertinent. It's the hairdo sported by Josh Brolin that is anachronistic. Nobody looked that fucking cool in 1980s Texas, I'm pretty damn certain!

I've seen Bardem in a few Spanish-language films over the years, and he is a fine actor, so it was no surprise to see him doing great work here as an utterly reprehensible human being.

Brolin was also very good. He's come a long way since Best Laid Plans!

Tommy Lee Jones is a funny one. He sort of leaves me cold as an actor, though I accept that he's good at his job. I feel he always plays essentially the same role, though, and that role kind of bores me. Meh.

Some people are claiming that Kelly Macdonald has been overlooked for an Oscar nomination. My view: no, she hasn't. She simply didn't warrant one. She's okay. She doesn't do enough, though, to be rewarded for her performance... which is as much a comment on the thinness of the characterization as it is on her ability.

The look of the film and the set-ups of the scenes are, as you would expect from the Coens, quite lovely, and the movie looks great and feels great from beginning to end, with that underlying sense of dread you get from all the best thrillers.

So, sort of a mixed bag, overall. Not quite the movie I thought it would be, but a great film nonetheless, in the sense of art created for the movie screen. Great looking, and great entertainment, if the tiniest bit too long. I give No Country for Old Men 72 points out of 100

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