Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers lastest opus is an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel so one should keep that in mind when viewing No Country for Old Men. Much of the complaints that I've heard from people are valid, yet I still enjoyed the film and the ending. The obligation to keep it faithful to the book does box the Coens in though.

Basically, this is another tale like A Simple Plan of a fellow named Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) that stumbles onto a drug deal gone wrong. Llewelyn finds the case of cash close by and attempts to start his life over. The only problem is that he goes back to the grant the wish of the last man standing for water. This time, people are waiting for him. So the film quickly turns into chase movie with Llewelyn being persued by the Mexicans selling the drugs and Anton Chigirh (Javier Bardem). Anton is the hired enforcer of a mysterious business man (Stephen Root looking for more than his Swingline stapler).

Soon, the mysterious man determines that his enforcer is off his rocker after Anton racks up an Arnold-like body count in Texas. So he sends ex-army mercenary named Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) to secure the loot and take care of Anton. All the while, Sherrif Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying hard not to take an interest in all this murder in his county. Ed Tom believes in avoiding sticking your nose into serious cases or else you too could be become involved.

All of the actors, even the small parts (Garret Dillahunt from Deadwood in particular), are well cast and acted. My chief complaint rests in the limits of the book and that is the underdeveloped Woody Harrelson role. The man chews the scenery everytime he comes on screen and you want his character to take care of all the ugliness unfolding, but as quickly as he enters he leaves. Another problem with the film is the climax. Having not read the book, the inevitable clash between Llewelyn and Anton has to take place on screen. In the film, their final battle isn't shown and really isn't addressed. The films does reach a conclusion that is satisfying and rather fitting, but the Coens set us up throughout for what seemed to be terrific climax worthy of LA Confidential like cred. Llewelyn who also was ex-army seems the perfect foil for Bardem's Anton and you want to see it play out. Javier Bardem has the flashy role, but Josh Brolin deserved the Oscar nod. I haven't seen him get a meaty role like this before, but he nails this one.

No Country for Old Men moves swiftly for its two hour running time. I'm not sure how much is cut out of the book, but there seems to be missing some meat on the bones. I definitely would have been okay with another twenty minutes of story. That being said, I did have a good time watching it... maybe too good of a time and that's why I wanted more with the characters. This is a flawed movie... but a good one.


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