Monday, February 11, 2008

"No country for old men" - Uh?

No Country For Old Men is probably a movie that everyone’s already seen and written about. I saw it recently and although I found it entertaining and funny, the ending left me somewhat puzzled. Not just me, actually – there was a collective “uh?” moment at the abrupt ending, and quite a few surprised “Is that it?” trend of remarks from the other people in the hall. Of course when the credits started rolling, we all knew that was it.

I’m not saying the movie wasn’t watchable. It was, very. Despite the blood and gore and gratuitous violence, there were plenty of laconic “cowboy”-type and “country wisdom”-type remarks to keep me amused, and enough genuine suspense to make me want to squinch my eyes shut and plug my ears with my fingers. (Yep, I’m a coward and haven’t progressed past childish responses to good scary suspense.)

You couldn’t help but like Josh Brolin for his deadpan dialogue despite his permanent scruffiness (not improved by generous quantities of gore as the movie progressed), Tommy Lee Jones did a great job as the wise-but-tired sheriff, and Javier Bardem was chilling as the relentless psychopathic killer looking for his money. I mean, the Terminator wasn’t as cold-blooded as Bardem’s psychopath, Chigeur - and not even Chigeur's ridiculous hairstyle detracted from that effect. Woody Harrelson entered as a wise-cracking private investigator halfway into the movie, but his contribution to the movie plot wasn’t much more than a slowly widening flood of blood once he’d been killed off.

The thing is, I didn’t find an actual plot to the movie. I do understand that the basic idea was to showcase the soullessness of America, how inured people have become to violence and violent deaths, and so on. But throughout the movie, at key points during key deaths, right up to the end, I kept thinking “NOW I’ll understand the plot” – but in the end, all I understood is that there was no plot.

Perhaps I’m the dumb sort of viewer who needs a rounding-off, closure of some sort… the sort of viewer who is
deaf, dumb and blind to anything that isn't spelled out between commercials on dying TV networks”. (Gee, thanks, Peter Travers.) Perhaps I DO need things spelled out… because I didn’t see the point in all the characters who started out as integral to the movie getting killed along the way, at random. Each killing was just a killing, not leading to a turning point in plot or direction. To me, the movie wasn’t much more than a documentary showcasing the mindless and gratuitous violence in America. But we knew that already.

I haven’t read the book on which the movie was based, so I don’t know how faithful to the book the movie was. Maybe if I read the book, the movie will make more sense… but I just don’t know at this point.


meerkat said...

my favourite movie reviewer mark says that the sheriff (representing the old school and olden way of life ) is confronted with the newer times and newer crime scene (with javier bardem) and thinks that the world is falling apart. A new sort of evilness is taking hold and there is no moral compass left.

anyway the ending is so because the novel ends like that. in the end the point about the movie and book is that it is not plot driven or about solving the crime, but the evil continues to live on.


Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Meera! Damn, but you always have a reasonable, logical answer for everything I query! :) Did you like the movie too?

- Shyam

Anonymous said...

Being a HUGE fan of this movie, I can't help but make a comment here. I want to second what Meeras said about the sheriff character representing "olden days" and being appalled by the "new crime." But the real kicker, and the real "plot" comes out near the end when he goes to talk to his friend, who I think was a retired cop and he points out that in reality, it's always been that way and that people always think what's ahead of them is worse than what they've been through. It's not a country for old men, it never has been, it never will be.
I also think there are themes of good v. evil, the human tendency to think that good always prevails (here it clearly doesn't), and man's arrogance in thinking he has ultimate control.

I think this movie can be tough for people because most movies have a pretty transparent story and this one relies heavily on themes. Having spent the last 4 years studying those, I tend to look for them everywhere.
I could on and on about this--I mean, I don't have an English degree for nothin' ;)

Kamini said...

Here I am, the one person who has NOT seen the movie - yet your post and the comment discussions have intrigued me sufficiently to want to see it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Longshadows: Hmmm, more light thrown upon the puzzle (to mix a metaphor) :) Thanks! I'm going to watch the movie again... if only to savour the humour in it.

Kamini: Be warned it's pretty gory. But it's also funny and definitely worth watching. :)

- shyam

Teesu said...

So, unconnectedly, may I compliment you on your very cute photo and even cuter line about some calling you strange...?:)Strangeness am happily afraid, seems to run in the family. - Your strangest cuz.

Anonymous said...

teesu: Dont tell me you only noticed it now? :) Still, better late than never for compliments, so thank you!

- Shyam

meerkat said...

shyam, i liked and enjoyed the movie but was not highly entertained by it. meaning, i will find it difficult to harness enthusiasm to see it again anytime in the near future.

in that respect, this movie is different to the usual coen brothers movies, like fargo, big lebowski, o brother, where art thou etc, which had more humour albeit black. they dealt with dark subjects as well but the tone was a lot lighter. this movie is a lot darker.

btw, i find it difficult to believe that anyone visiting this site regularly could miss your beaming visage :-)

Inba's Corner said...


Anonymous said...

I concur - tho the acting/pacing was great - it was not worthy of the great reviews/praise its being showered upon...


patrick said...

just saw no country for old men, it's unassumingly unconventional yet (thankfully) never over-the-top. the Coen bros. deserve their Oscars; well done indeed.