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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

No Country for Old Men (review)

A Simple Plan

Here’s the thing about Joel and Ethan Coen: they can make anything, absolutely anything, intensely profound and deeply weird — and weirdly deep — and cruelly magnificent all at the same time. Skip back past their recent fluff — not that Intolerable Cruelty and especially O Brother, Where Art Thou? are not as sublime as fluff gets — and recall how Fargo and Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple simply Blew. Your. Mind. with the unfathomable depths of their indifferent visual beauty and the wide-open expanses of their psychological intuition. Recall how it felt to walk right along a knife edge of understated terror and unexpected humor and modern noir nonchalance.
The Coens are a force of nature, and thank god for them, for reminding us of the spellbinding awesomeness of film to fill you up and knock you down and wrap up the immeasurable strangeness of life in neat, messy packages. Every single one of their movies is the kind of movie that made you fall in love with movies, and each of their films can be defined through the one character at its center who is a force of nature him- or herself. (The Coens pull this off in such a way that you’d think that must be the definition of any movie.) And no Coen human low-pressure system yet has been anything like the nightmare of centered psychosis that is Javier Bardem’s (The Sea Inside, Collateral) Anton Chigurh.

He’s a killer — a hired killer, maybe, or just a madly dedicated one. He stalks into Coens’ big empty flat vastness of West Texas on a mission: to retrieve the suitcase full of money — about $2 million’s worth — from whoever spirited it away from the desert drug deal that went bad. He’s a machine, as cold and calculating as the Terminator but worse: flickers of sympathy or humanity or something decent tease us. Or, no: not flickers of humanity but of a commitment to his own heartless set of rules, to a capriciousness that is its own weird kind of honor. He is perfectly happy to decide who will live and who will die by his hand on the toss of a coin. Chigurh is the embodiment of the randomness of violence, the unpredictability of the universe in dealing out death, and he haunts this desolate landscape like an malevolent shade.

It’s a landscape not just physical — the Coens’ long, silent takes of cold wind blowing through desert sagebrush are like something out of a forgotten Andrew Wyeth painting — but emotional, too, in an reserved male way. The man Chigurh is after is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin: American Gangster, Grindhouse: Planet Terror), not the brightest bulb but far from the dimmest, too: he can’t resist the lure of all that money, which he stumbled across purely by accident, but neither can he resist the call of his conscience to do something he should have done before he left the scene of the crime (his own and others’), which is what allows Chigurh to pick up his tail. So now Moss is on the run, trying to draw Chigurh away from his wife (Kelly Macdonald: Nanny McPhee, Finding Neverland); two steps behind is county sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones: A Prairie Home Companion, Man of the House), who’s appalled by all the death and destruction he’s seeing in the wake of whomever it is he’s chasing.

It’s all so simple, really: a simple story simply told. It’s in the how that the Coens show their mastery as perhaps the finest pure storytellers working in film today. Give this same script to, oh, John McTiernan or Edgar Wright, and you’d get a stylish action movie out of it. In the hands of the Coens, it is a literary masterpiece about the flips sides of perseverance, and about a cultural shift that’s barely noticed until it’s past. The year is 1980, at the beginning of the “war on drugs,” when the dealers and the smugglers started getting desperate and even more dangerous, and saw no reason not to raise the stakes as high as they could go: Chigurh is their weapon. And while he doesn’t know it as the film opens, Bell is the old man this country is no longer for — we meet him through a stunningly effective voiceover at the beginning of the movie in which he shakes his head in wonder at the “old-timer” sheriffs of Texas who refuse to even carry a gun, but he is already as obsolete, temperamentally if not strategically, as those relics from a era lost and never to be refound.

If Bardem is the whirlwind here, Jones is the still eye of the storm, the calm axis around which horrors eddy and the world changes — this is Jones’s finest performance ever as he, the actor, tetters along a tightrope the character doesn’t even know he’s walking. But all the most riveting, most tense moments in No Country for Old Men are like that: quiet, uncomplicated, but fraught with dangers sensed and unsensed.

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MPAA: rated R for strong graphic violence and some language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • Nathan

    Well, I’m sure it helps when your starting point is a literary masterpiece in the first place. McCarthy originally conceived of No Country as a screenplay before he made a novel of it, which may be why it has apparently translated to film so well (I haven’t seen it yet.) No Country as a novel might be McCarthy’s weakest effort to date, but a weak effort from McCarthy is better than anything else out there. Thank god the Coens got a hold of it and not someone else.

    When I first heard the movie was being made, I doubted they could successfully portray the menace of Chigurh, but it looks like Bardem has done something really special.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m sure it helps when your starting point is a literary masterpiece in the first place.

    A good script is always an excellent place to start, of course, but many bad films have been made from great source material. See *Love in the Time of Cholera* the film for a prime example.

  • E

    I don’t even want to read the rest of the review after the first few lines. As long as its awesome, I don’t want to spoil it anymore for myself. I hope that’s not a terrible fact to a film reviewer, but this is one of maybe two films per year where I isolate myself from most information and hope to god it’s as good as I want it to be.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s not terrible at all. I try to make my reviews as interesting to those who’ve already seen a film as it hopefully is to those trying to decide whether to see something, so come back after you see this one.

  • Moe

    Tommy Lee Jones gives his speech at the table and then the credits come up. Everybody in the audience looks at each other and quietly shuffles to the exists. I just sat there and screamed in my head, “That’s it?!?! Where’s the ending?”

    No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose. The scenes without the killer was like a suction void that drained the movie of all tension/conflict/interest and i couldn’t wait until the film went back to him.

    I hate it when movies don’t have endings.
    I’d give it a 5/10 but probably around 8/10 if it had a proper conclusion.

  • The Party Crasher

    Here I am again.

    Here I am to announce the fact that Josh Brolin has shot a dog…again. Two consecutive films in a row, Josh Brolin shoots a dog. Two brilliantly made films (No Country for Old Men and American Gangster). Both containing a scene where Brolin shoots a dog.

    My predictions for Oscar:
    Best film category:
    1)No Country for Old Men
    2)American Gangster

    Best supporting actor:
    1) Josh Brolin
    2) Dog in No Country for Old Men
    3) Dog in American Gangster

  • JT

    No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose.

    I think the car crash showed that Chigurh, who seemed to be invincible for most of the movie, was as vulnerable as everyone else.

    The movie was open-ended, but TLJ’s words at the end pretty much say to me that he has accepted his fate and he feels too old to continue chasing this killer. One final showdown doesn’t need to be shown.

  • Moe

    The aftermath of that late night street shootout showed Chigurh was human. So what was the point of the car crash?

    Who hired Chigurh? Who were those two “managerial” men?
    Was he in that abandoned crime scene in that motel?
    Did he just run out the window? That doesn’t seem like him.

    The movie should’ve ended with TLJ and Chigurh at the motel. No matter what happened, that would’ve been the proper conclusion. Or, even better, have his final speech as a voice over on his way over to the motel where Chigurh was resting and fade out as he enters. Let the audience decide that way.

    That would’ve been not only an ending, but a great one.
    The way they left it, makes TLJ’s character seem cowardly.
    What the sulty old sherrif is too scared to hunt down the psychotic new comers? Didn’t he state at the very beginning that he’d be okay with dying on the job?

    God, i really hated that ending.
    I don’t care if the Coens followed the book’s ending to a T, it’s just wrong to leave the audience that unfulfilled.

  • Nathan

    the car crash — earlier in the film Chigurh tells the gas station attendant not to mix the lucky coin in with his other coins because then it would just be another coin. then he turns to the man and says, “Which it is.” Chigurh says more than once that he got here the same way the coin did… he is a lucky coin in that he is the “ultimate badass” and seems to be the arbiter of others’ fates, but he is also just another coin in that he is subject to chance as much as anyone else. the random crash makes this clear.

    i thought it was interesting that, just like Moss, Chigurh is forced to purchase a piece of clothing from a stranger with bloody money. in any case i think the image of a battered Chigurh shambling down a sunny, Odessa, Tx street is as perfect an image of evil as i might ever see in a film.

    Sheriff Bell is renouncing the world because this world has become (drumroll) No Country For Old Men. and maybe he realizes that this world has always been that way. there will be no killing of Chigurh because Chigurh in many ways is the face of the world itself — violent and random even if it seems at times to follow some kind of untethered logic. if a man as resourceful and full of classic, western values such as Moss is snuffed out unceremoniously off-screen, what chance does an old sheriff have?

    the only thing we can do in that kind of a world is to carry the fire, no matter how small, into all that darkness, like in the dream. Bell’s way of doing this is to retire, settle down, live out his life, and tell his story.

    but anyway, if you didn’t like NCFOM, i saw the trailer for the new Rambo movie and i’d be willing to bet he kills the bad guys in the end following all the usual narrative conventions that people like so much; so you might want to check that out.

  • MaryAnn

    What Nathan said.

    The way they left it, makes TLJ’s character seem cowardly.
    What the sulty old sherrif is too scared to hunt down the psychotic new comers? Didn’t he state at the very beginning that he’d be okay with dying on the job?

    Cowardly? It’s just the opposite. It’s Bell bravely recognizing that the world has passed him by and that he is not prepared to face it in any way that fits into his self-image of himself as a lawman. His whole opening monologue becomes ironic in retrospect. Not his stated willingness to die on the job (though, I suppose, an argument could be made about self-delusion, that he believed he could be satisfied die on the job only when he was in control enough to think, perhaps unconsciously, that that wouldn’t happen). But his respectful but just slightly condescending portrait of those old geezers who preceded him, and whom he can see are on the way out. Now Bell is the one on the way out.

    What difference would it make who hired Chigurh? Isn’t it enough to assume that it was someone who had a stake in that drug deal that went bad just before the film opens? How would knowing the identity and precise motive of Chigurh’s employer change anything?

  • Moe

    In the time that it took to film and show that pointless car crash, a few expositional words about his motive would’ve helped the movie.

    Remember Vincent from Collateral? Remember how well it was portrayed what his victims had done?

    “How do i know, you know? They all got that witness for the prosecution look to me. Probably some major federal indictment of somebody who majorly doesn’t wanna get indicted.”

    A few sentences like that could only have made the movie better.
    And to leave the most compelling character of the entire with so many question marks around him was just not smart.

    Believe me MaryAnne, if you only could’ve seen the disappointment of the audience that i saw it with when the credits came up, you’d see what i mean.

  • reed

    The film peters out two thirds of the way through and it’s a rip off from there onwards. The film makes you care about Bolin, the Vietnam vet character and then it doesn’t even pay off where it counts. A show down between a resourceful man and an insatiable killer who looks and acts like Lurch but who has ghost like supernatural power to carry out evil, was needed. But the movie didn’t deliver. The last quarter or so of the film rambled on without much of a story left to tell. What a disappointment in its deficiency to remain connected to the story of a strong-willed, tough-minded, resourceful and determined man to make his stand against evil. The film couldn’t even be bothered with showing how a man who decided to protect his wife and take on a malevolent grotesque monster went down fighting. His stand was the purpose and heart of the story and what made the film worth watching and redeeming. All this emphasis given to an almost supernatural man possessed of evil undermined the credibility of the film. As the film went on and on, its emphasis on the violent acts of a reprehensible character and the inability to retaliate effectively against him or to outwit him because he is just unstoppable and too powerful made the story repulsive. Eventually the film’s story became so futile and repelling it lost it compass as it meandered and sputtered to an inconclusive and pointless ending, but by then who cared anymore?

  • A show down between a resourceful man and an insatiable killer who looks and acts like Lurch but who has ghost like supernatural power to carry out evil, was needed.

    I completely agree. Even if Llewellyn had LOST, and the killer had won, the showdown would have redeemed the movie.

    I was horribly let down by the ending. I don’t need the good guys to win all the time. I don’t need there to be a happy ending. I DO, however, need there to be a MEANINGFUL ending. An ending that gives the film a thematic capstone.

    Too many potentially great movies are ruined by their endings. This is doubly disappointing because the Coen Brothers have brought us some amazing, amazing endings that take their films to new heights.

  • MaryAnn

    In the time that it took to film and show that pointless car crash

    But the crash was NOT pointless! It shows that Chigurh is NOT the “supernatural” being the most recent commenters seem to believe he is — that he is subject to the same random chance that we all are. What is supernatural about him, anyway?

    An ending that gives the film a thematic capstone.

    Just because the thematic capstone isn’t one you like doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.

  • Moe

    “But the crash was NOT pointless! It shows that Chigurh is NOT the “supernatural” being the most recent commenters seem to believe he is — that he is subject to the same random chance that we all are. What is supernatural about him, anyway?”

    Don’t you think his gunfight injuries with Josh Brolin did that already?

  • MaryAnn

    No, I don’t. Chigurh believed himself above the vagaries of random chance, but getting shot in a gunfight doesn’t seem to negate that. But that car crash, outta nowhere… whew. It’s as shocking to us as it is to him… and that’s the point. It HAD to come out of nowhere for us to feel something of the shock he feels.

  • JDR

    Thank you for the best review/discussion I’ve read of the film, yet. I just saw it a few hours ago, and I knew I’d be reading some review sites this evening to try to get a better understanding of the message (especially after the ending – which made the majority of the audience groan in obvious disappointment when the lights came up).

    Tommy Lee Jones’ performance is better and more haunting the more I think about it. At first I was bothered that his character really had nothing to do with the main plot line. However, the movie’s title is all about him and his situation – his decision to quit and his lack of involvement and waning interest in his job, and his growing disgust and frustration with how he perceives the world changing (but as another character pointed out, man’s inhumanity towards man is nothing new). The fact that he doesn’t have any true involvement or effect on the events that unfold is clearly on purpose.

    This is not a straight-ahead, plot-drive action flick that ties up neatly at the end. Mistaking it for one is what’s causing people frustration with the movie, I think. I’ve read quite a few reviews that said that the dream retelling at the end of the movie was just “tacked on to add some meaning.” No, the theme is constant throughout with Jones’ character and it is the whole point of the movie (and McCarty’s book) – otherwise they could have just titled it “Some Stuff that Went Down in West Texas.”

    I like that Llewelyn was resourceful and clever – but not enough in the end to cheat his fate. I like the car crash, which proved that the one person seemingly in control of things throughout the film, wasn’t completely. Everything was masterfully crafted – this is a great piece of filmmaking in its own right and thought provoking, despite what some people are saying.

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve read quite a few reviews that said that the dream retelling at the end of the movie was just “tacked on to add some meaning.”

    I think that says more about those critics than it says about the movie. Who on earth could take issue with “meaning” or with a film being “meaningful”?

  • Johnny

    I dunno what Jones was talking about in the end, I was waiting for a cowboy ending, maybe they’ll have a sequel with more guns. j/k
    I was sitting in a theater full of old people. I meen I was the only young guy.They most of saw Tommy lee Jones was in it and figured it would be a typical western. I’m not saying I’m Mr.cool for being the youngest there.
    However Given the bad guy was so creepy, I got the jumps everytime. You know a bad thing was going to happen , but when… that had me on the edge. I can’t help be a twitcher in the seats. It’s embarrassing, I did manage to stand from my seat before everyone else. They were all like “huh is it over?”. And i walked out knowing at least i’m not that bad(the bad guy). I’d didn’t really get TLJ’s character I found it nerve racking. He was just taking things slow. Mean while hes falling behind the whole case.Cowardly, no, if he was, he wouldn’t of been a cop. So I didn’t listen to that story I was to dazzled by the time, settings and violence.

  • MaryAnn

    They most of saw Tommy lee Jones was in it and figured it would be a typical western.

    Well, that’s their problem, isn’t is? Since when is he known for being in “typical Westerns”?

  • Johnny

    Well the joke is, Tommy lee Jones shows up to the set with his Cowboy hat and cop Attitude. No need for the studio to buy him the uniform, he already owns one. Thats where I was getting at. But I didn’t event care about the crowd and what they thought.But they did take notice to most of his performance.Like the scene where he describes those crimes in the paper, it was bitter and funny. Where I liked the whole cat and mouse thing more between the killer and Josh Brolin.

  • JT

    I was sitting in a theater full of old people. I meen I was the only young guy

    I had the same experience. I’ve never seen so many old women (Cormac McCarthy fangirls?) in a theater at one time. It was like bingo night at a church. But they were really quiet even when the accents and dialogue were difficult to grasp. The last movie I went to that was filled with old people was Matchstick Men and people kept asking others what the characters on the screen were saying. It was a nightmare.

  • MBI

    The youngest person in my viewing was my 17-year-old little brother, who I made go with me. I also made him watch Blue Velvet, Elephant and Barton Fink when he was younger. I do so much for that kid, I swear.

    Best movie of the year? Hell fucking yeah.

  • Nathan

    yeah, there are a lot of old-lady, Cormac McCarthy fangirls… they really enjoy the violence, despair, and Gnostic angst.

  • MaryAnn

    Tommy lee Jones shows up to the set with his Cowboy hat and cop Attitude.

    Nope, sorry, that doesn’t cut it. Anyone who’s clued in enough to behind-the-scenes Hollywood to know that knows that TLJ hardly even does “typical Westerns.”

  • Kevin

    I have never posted a blog before, if that’s what I’m doing now. I appreciate all the insights, to help me understand what I believe is one of the most well-crafted films I have ever seen.

    I, too, did not get the point of the ending at first and groaned with most of the audience. After thinking more about it, I got that the Chigurh character was not just an evil man, he was the embodiment, a vehicle of Evil itself. I believe that is what Harrelson’s character was trying to get across to Brolin in the hospital when he said, “You don’t understand.” It makes sense that Anton Chigurh goes on, as a metaphor for the persistence of Evil that Sheriff Bell so often laments.

  • Johnny

    I can believe the elders didn’t come to see T-Jones. I was guessing. First thing that came to mind was Maybe it was Tlj , maybe. And when I thought about it, yes your right he didn’t do alot of westerns. If all the senors came there because of the writer , well I believe that, if I knew the writer. Which I didn’t, and now I do, hell maybe I’ll read the book, or something else by the writer. I’m game for more of the content the film featured.

  • cole

    i think that the sheriff took his friends advice. When he asked the old timer if the man that shot you was released whould you go after him, and the old timer said no because while you are trying to get revenge our justice more of your life is flying out the window. I think to that the sheriff had seen enough evil for his life time.

  • b

    It only makes sense that a lot of people would be disappointed by the last third of this movie. In a way it speaks to how damn excellent the set-up was. You really want some kind of showdown, regardless of the exact outcome. That none of the three primary characters fully confront one another is an eschewal of convention that can’t help but frustrate on some level.

    I loved the movie, of course. But the book pads out things a little better, thematically. It’s more easily understood that the Sheriff’s pontifications are the center of gravity in the story, and you get more of them, more insight into where his character is coming from. Not that the Coens omit anything vital.

    It also gives you a little more insight into who Chigurh is and what happens to the money itself. I’m not sure why the Coens left that out of the movie, as it would’ve appeased the desire for more resolution; and, it IS in the book. And it’s an interesting resolution.

    Overall, the book, while powerful and 100% worth reading, is not McCarthy’s most mind-blowing — it’s very spare, almost Hemingway-esque (but better), and the movie is an at times almost exhaustingly faithful adaptation. So in seeing the movie you really aren’t missing out on a ton. But the book does give you some insight into a few puzzling aspects and scenes in the movie, and spins others in a slightly different way. E.g. in the book, the final dialogue between Chigurh and Moss’ wife plays out differently, with different implications. There’s more discussion between them than what’s in the movie, and Moss’ wife finally calls the coin toss.

    What impressed me in reading the book after seeing the movie was that on the rare occasions the Coens flat-out added something of their own, it was brilliant, but also aesthetically well-matched enough that I was surprised it wasn’t also a part of the book. E.g. that amazing sequence in which the pitbull chases Brolin into and through the river? Purely the Coens.

    On the otherhand the melancholy of the book is deeper and better balanced. You get into the Sheriff’s head more, especially towards the end. There’s a little more personal context. It’s not exactly uplifting stuff, but definitely powerful, and it gives you a hell of a lot to think about.

  • Scott P.

    Excellent comment by reed– “What a disappointment in its deficiency to remain connected to the story of a strong-willed, tough-minded, resourceful and determined man to make his stand against evil. The film couldn’t even be bothered with showing how a man who decided to protect his wife and take on a malevolent grotesque monster went down fighting. His stand was the purpose and heart of the story and what made the film worth watching and redeeming.”

    While I enjoyed the movie & didn’t mind the ending, I didn’t like how the Coens neglected to show us how Moss (the movie’s underdog-hero) died. He shared a clever give & take with the chick by the pool & then we don’t even see a clear shot of him lying dead in the motel room after the Mexicans showed up.

    I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all. He avoided meeting with the DEA agents out of laziness or maybe he simply didn’t care about solving the case. Then when he figured out that Chigurh would waltz right into the crime scene at the El Paso motel in order to find the money, why wouldn’t he call the local police to meet him there in order to catch the psychopath on the loose???

  • MaryAnn

    that amazing sequence in which the pitbull chases Brolin into and through the river?

    Man, that dog was intensely scary…

    I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all.

    Maybe that’s the point. Maybe there are no heroes here at all.

    What I love about the Coens is how they refuse — almost always but particularly here — to adhere to cinematic convention. Who says there *must* be a protagonist who’s “heroic”?

  • Corey

    At the conclusion of this film, I wish I had been shot in the head with Chigurh’s air gun. Excuse me for enjoying films as entertainment, but when I go to the movies I don’t want my brain to hurt from all that thinking. Tommy Lee Jones was definitely great in this movie. However, this movie isn’t nearly as flawless a film as Volcano. My two suggestions are: #1 Volcano could have used more western shootouts. #2 No Country For Old Men could have used more lava.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t want my brain to hurt from all that thinking

    Your brain hurts from *thinking*?! You should see a doctor or something. That’s like saying your lungs hurt from breathing –it shouldn’t be.

  • Byron Huskey

    A bit late to the party, but I just saw this last night with a couple friends. Pretty much adored movie, and we thought it was brilliant, except for…

    Yes, the ending (although Moss’ death was also very underwhelming, I was able to accept it as an artistic choice).

    It left all four of us so… unsatisfied, perhaps for different reasons. For myself and two of my friends, it was not that there was no “showdown”. We liked the car crash. I actually predicted the crash itself as soon as I saw that light turn green, but that’s okay, it still was shocking to see it *actually* come to be.

    We liked the monologue about the dream. But the ending was still so unsatisfying. I didn’t want a happy ending, or some other cliche. I’m okay with leaving things unanswered or vague. But it wasn’t an ending. The movie stopped. It didn’t end. Perhaps, as had been suggested, the movie should have ended with the monologue over a montage of shots leading up to the sheriff coming back to the hotel. Perhaps not.

    I’m sure years from now the movie’s ending will be studied by film students in Coen Brother study classes (I’ve been in one before, it was a great class) and people will have a hundred ways of interpreting it; many of their movies are like that. Still, an ending shouldn’t have such a universal head-scratch. Doesn’t have to be dumbed down. My friends and I aren’t stupid, we like reading into things. But really, the movie plain old stopped. This was actually the second movie in a row I’ve seen with a weak “ending” (I Am Legend by the other. But that movie petered out as soon as the woman and her son entered, and that was more of a script failing than a misguided artistic choice). Still, the rest of the movie was exquisite. It’s the one real flaw of this otherwise gem of a film.

  • matt

    No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose. The scenes without the killer was like a suction void that drained the movie of all tension/conflict/interest and i couldn’t wait until the film went back to him.

    You should rend finding nemo. I think you’d enjoy it.

    But really, the movie plain old stopped.

    Yes it did. That it wasn’t what you thought i would be doesn’t mean it didn’t have an ending. The story line was over. The movie started with the sheriff’s words and ended with the sheriff’s words. In the beginning he discussed the old timers, in the end he was the old timer.

    Needless to say, I thought the movie was brilliant, flawless, and the best I’ve seen in a long time. I didn’t want to leave the theatre. Bravo.

  • E R

    Howdy,

    In Reply to:

    “I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all. He avoided meeting with the DEA agents out of laziness or maybe he simply didn’t care about solving the case. Then when he figured out that Chigurh would waltz right into the crime scene at the El Paso motel in order to find the money, why wouldn’t he call the local police to meet him there in order to catch the psychopath on the loose???

    The Sheriff is and ol’ and wise and wise dog….

    he isnt wastin’ time with the Feds, and patiently sits and watches…knowing one of em is a ProKiller, the other, a NamVet ProKiller….

    He thinks ahead how these pieces are moving, really fast, making their moves…

    Calling the cavalry, would just get more police killed against these two gunslingers…

    It is in Texas, boys…

    Another cool part of the movie is where all 3 characters connect:

    They all drink from the same milk.

    Is that part in the book ?

  • Signal30

    That’s sorta neat about the milk… I forgot that Moss was in the equation.

    I think it’s important when approaching the film to remember that it’s not Moss’ story, but the Sheriff’s. In a meta-filmmaking way, the betrayal of narrative expectations mirrors the sheriff’s increasing bewilderment that no one’s playing by the rules anymore.

    And then, the realization that they never really did and that he was a sucker for thinking so.

    Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Moss’ offscreen death. It sort of implied that in the scheme of things, his death was as irrelevant to the proceedings as that of the hotel clerk, the floozie by the pool or any other bystander that happened to get into Chugarh’s way.

    Dead is dead, doesn’t matter how you got there.

    Although I’ll cop that when the reveal came, a line from Yeats’ “The Second Coming” flashed through my mind: “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold…”

    But that was in response to the narrative turn, I momentarily thought that the film had gone off of the rails. But soon I was back in the groove and figured out what was going down.

    Actually, I think that Yeats’ poem was a direct influence on the book/film. Especially taking into account that the title is from another one of his works, and on to such things as Chugarh slowing his truck down on a bridge to take a potshot at a falcon (and missing).

  • antonio

    Upfront we are educated beyond instinct; apologizing for deconstructing in advance. I took this film as a metaphor for endless war e.g. war on drugs terror and civil liberties and so on and so on.
    No one is innocent everyone participates in being both hunter and hunted. They draw sustenance from the same source. the milk scene the ending is perfect as, it does not give resolution. This is war without clear battle lines or combatants. It is unlike any other Brolins Vietnam experiences have not prepared him, nor has Harrison’s own c “modern” experiences given him an edged.
    The future belongs to the young, the kids who take “blood money. This noir down to its bones and it is brilliant

  • blah

    Great movie … and great comments by everyone

  • blah

    What do people think about the Carson guy? What a waste of a character … I mean, he is introduced so well, talks big and shows up by Moss’ bedside and I thought he was going to be the next big character to take on Chigurh (or at least try to!) and then bam … a couple of scenes later is just another victim of Chigurh!

  • MaryAnn

    Maybe Carson is a commentary on the randomness of life and death: even “good” characters can die unexpectedly…

  • Hardy Campbell

    So many viewers, so little consensus. Like all allegorical poetry (and that’s really what this movie is) this film is ambiguous to the point of each viewer seeing it from their own worldview of life, death and justice. No Country is also a Greek tragedy set in the wastelands of West Texas, with the sage Bell playing the part of the helpless but sage muse, Moss playing the mortal defying the Gods, and Chigurh being the God’s emissary on earth, dispensing a divine justice unknowable to humans. Chigurh uses his victim’s own flaws to condemn them. “If your rule brought you to this,” Anton asks the doomed Wells, “what good is your rule?”

  • There’s some great discussion here. I finally saw this movie over the weekend and left the theatre suspecting it would require a second viewing; after reading the comments here, I *know* it will. I think the ending will feel more solid – my initial feeling was that it should have happened ten minutes sooner than it did, after Chigurh came out from his meeting with Mrs Moss’s, but now I think I just missed some things.

    In terms of Lewellyn Moss’s exit, I simultaneously was quite disappointed and wouldn’t have it any other way. I would have liked to see the final confrontation, even with the same outcome, but . . . if this were the sort of movie that would go out of its way to show that, then it would be the sort of movie I don’t generally care for too much. Ah, well. Not too hard to guess how it happened, anyway.

    Yep, definitely need to see this one again. I went in knowing little to nothing about it other than the fact that it had been enthusiastically recommended a while back by a friend whose taste in movies I trust, and that certainly allowed the story to unfold in my head however it wanted, but now I need to see it knowing as much as I can about it.

  • E R

    Howdy, Hardy,

    That is a great analysis, of a Greek tragedy backdrop, as the Cohens are known to pay homage in the retelling of a story of morales, and systems of beliefs, using various historical periods in Americana. (O Bro.Where)

    The deal here is that this is set in Texas, so the story takes on the full flavor, like driving for miles, hours on the desolate highways.

    There is also a couple of questions that still linger after viewing the movie….

    like, what happened to shipment from the back of the truck? it figures that Chigurh has it, so why go after the money? Greed or professionalism?

    so the characters are whipping in and out of new and old prototypes of society.

    Still wonderin’ if the milk part is in the book, or in, now that I think of it, in any Greek tragedy…

  • MaryAnn

    it figures that Chigurh has it, so why go after the money?

    How do you figure that?

  • E R

    First, Moss sees the shipment in the back of the truck, at the scene.

    Next, Chigurh is there, and executes the 2 guys sent by Houston.

    Next scene, the sheriff is there the next day, looks at the – empty – back of the truck, and comments on the brown dope…

  • Nathan

    interesting aside which doesn’t get talked about: the character of Chirgurh was most likely inspired by a ruthless El Paso drug-lawyer named Jimmy Chagra. Chagra was involved in hiring the father of Woody Harrelson to kill a judge in San Antonio. then the Coens just happen to hire Woody Harrelson to be in their film.

    coincidence?

  • MaryAnn

    Heh. Gotta be a coincidence, right?

    First, Moss sees the shipment in the back of the truck, at the scene.

    Does he? I’d forgotten that. But anyway, I don’t think Chirgurh is after the money as much as he’s after the guy what took the money: loose ends, don’tcha know…

  • David

    Perhaps some of us need two bleak hours with a soulless terminator and an assortment of pathetic souls. I didn’t. There is nothing redeeming, or even slightly interesting, about this film. I suppose that was the point. That is, after all, what it appears to be saying about the human condition.

  • MaryAnn

    Must all art be cheery?

  • mike

    Ok, Could someone please explain the meaning of the dream at the end?

  • David

    Of course, not all “art” must be cheery. And since my comment suggested no such thing, your snarky question has uncovered a broad swath of agreement between us. Where we disagree, it appears, is on the question of whether this grim exercise in bleak nihilism constitutes “art.” To me, it fails on any number of levels, from disengaging implausibility to thinness of insight. It has a rich color palette and slick editing, and some nice performances, but little else. Yes, some human beings can be inconsistent and irrational, going back with water for the dying drug dealer who they coldly rebuked hours earlier. Yes, some people are killing machines either with or without some operating principles which may have their own kind of plausibility or rationality.. And, if you steal millions of dollars in drug money, you ‘ve likely raised the olds of running into such people. All of this is grim, and probably true in a way that demonstrates how lost and meaningless life may be, but that “insight” doesn’t necessarily make for art. And, in my opinion, it doesn’t here.

  • David

    How about this folks. Just try looking at the killer as death itself, AIDS, cancer, a horrible accident. Thats why for instance he is so hard for everyone to understand. He seems to talk jeberish to them but hes bored with their same old resposes. They don’t understand his language because they only meet him once. We all race to death, like the dog who chases the cowboy down the river, but also the lazy cop who let’s the killer get behind him while he chats on the phone. You can chase death actively or passively but the destination is the same. The ending is clear. The old cop is even more vulnerable to death in an environment which he is unprepared for. Where he will waste away through lack of stimulation. He was safer chasing the killer. Thats the point! No escape. I could go on all night.

  • MaryAnn

    Of course, not all “art” must be cheery. And since my comment suggested no such thing, your snarky question has uncovered a broad swath of agreement between us.

    My question wasn’t meant to be snarky. But you suggested that some people “need” nihilism, and hence that no one could appreciate this film as cinema — as art — unless we “need” that. I don’t think that’s true. I, for one, don’t “need” bleakness, but I also would find it disingenuous to suggest that the world is not, indeed, quite bleak quite often.

  • Joe

    I just rented this ppv last night and I have to say I was quite disappointed. All the hype, this movie didnt deliver. With all the build up with the three main characters I thought for sure that there would be some spectacular ending that wouls blow my mind away. Instead prematurely and anticlimactically Moss dies in the Motel, Chirguhr breaks his arm in a random car accident, and TLJ recounts 2 bizarre dreams he had about his father. I usually enjoy movies that make you think and have plots/endings out of the ordinary, however, after Moss is killed, the storyline of this movie became so bizarre and vague that it left myself and others wanting more.

    I equate the ending of this movie to the Sopranos finale. Too good a movie/series to have such a bad ending!

  • MaryAnn

    I think the ending is pretty spectacular. How do you define “spectacular,” Joe?

  • David

    “How about this folks. Just try looking at the killer as death itself, AIDS, cancer, a horrible accident. Thats why for instance he is so hard for everyone to understand. He seems to talk jeberish to them but hes bored with their same old resposes. They don’t understand his language because they only meet him once. We all race to death, like the dog who chases the cowboy down the river, but also the lazy cop who let’s the killer get behind him while he chats on the phone. You can chase death actively or passively but the destination is the same. The ending is clear. The old cop is even more vulnerable to death in an environment which he is unprepared for. Where he will waste away through lack of stimulation. He was safer chasing the killer. Thats the point! No escape. I could go on all night.”

    This death analogy seems pretty foolish, particularly in a movie in which “death” marches through the film not randomly, but mainly as payback for those who tried to steal drug money.

  • David

    The ending was simply odd. The random car accident. The killer demonstrating an odd meekness. Kids fighting over money. And then two odd dreams recounted by an aging sheriff. Anything but spectacular, I think.

  • The movie is in one word, ‘Hollywood’, as in Gollywood. It’s a good drive- in movie, that is, the main purpose is not the movie. Really good for the first hour, then starts a roller coaster of meaniless, unrealistic happenings. Bottom line: The audience at the end just quietly get up and walk out like in a doped trance; at least, that’s what the studio thought…

  • MaryAnn

    Ah, I think we’re seeing the problem now. The movie doesn’t look like it was directed by Michael Bay, which is why lots of people don’t like it. If stuff isn’t blowing up, it’s simply not interesting and leaves the audience in a doped trance. Got it.

  • David (the first)

    Okay, now that’s snarky — and also wrong, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s tantamount to me saying that you liked this movie because it’s murder porn — with as much repetitive violence as there are explosions in Michael Bay films. Come on. How many trails of blood, shotgun wounds, or air piston deaths do you need to see?

    To avoid confusion, here is how I reviewed the film:

    “I sat in the theater for about ten minutes after No Country for Old Men was over. It wasn’t the genius of it that left me motionless. In fact, I didn’t detect very much genius in it at all. I found none of the characters terribly appealing or engaging, save for the sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones, and he was, at most, an attempted surrogate for the audience–bearing witness to the events of the film and emoting a combination of disbelief, chagrin, and shock. The story was scattershot and barely engaging. And what held it all together at all was a murderous character who seemed to be a superficial study in ruthlessness–a man who, in the relentless pursuit of money, gets to indulge a grim kick for gratuitous killing. Everyone knows that there are bloodless, heartless, and fiercely stoic maniacs in the world, and that there always have been. In fact, in the kind of spoon-feeding I truly hate in movies, Tommy Lee Jones’s character recounts a newspaper story about a brutal killing to unnecessarily drive home the point. The only question No Country for Old Men left on the table, at least for me, was, “So what?” It’s like Terminator told from the point of view of the machines–a heartless, relentless tale with nary a lesson in it apart from the obvious: Don’t mess with drug dealers because you’re likely to find a kind of ruthlessness you’ve never imagined. Not exactly rocket science, and not exactly unimaginable, since it’s been done before in better movies, including The Professional.

    Part of the reason No Country for Old Men left me cold is that it seemed remarkably undecided as to its own message. As a result, the critics have had a field day coming up with all manner of metaphors they believe inhabit the story and the characters. I could find none. At best, Javier Bardem’s killer represented the kind of conscienceless, amoral persona that has become a rather common trigger point for fear and public panic. Not shaded by any empathy or concern for human life, he may be a representation of the modern, existential killing machine who is beyond reasoning with or avoiding–like the carjacker who kills the young mother after she tries to connect with him and provides details of the young children she will leave behind. He is a predator unmoved, and perhaps even disgusted, by other human beings. One monumental problem, however, is that No Country For Old Men provides no counterpoint for this. There is not a single character I cared about who came into the crossfire of Bardem’s narcissistic psychopath. In addition, since he mainly focuses his murderous rage on those who, to one degree or another, are culpable in the theft or attempted recovery of drug money, his persona lacks the cold-blooded arbitrariness of so many real killers that make the news.

    No Country for Old Men, in the end, is the cinematic equivalent of watching a shark feed. As the movie wrapped up, I thought, maybe the one person spared by our homicidal shadow of a character might kill him in some unintended accident. At least that would put a nihilistic smile on our faces at the end of this otherwise humorless dirge.”

    By the way, I hate Michael Bay’s movies and the entire “explosion/action” style of movie-making. I also happen to like darker endings, and believe that many movies fail by not going sufficiently dark. As for the doped trance, No Country for Old Men was sufficiently uninteresting that it wouldn’t surprise me if smart people felt sleepy.

  • Nathan

    David: have you ever seen Patch Adams starring Robin Williams? i think you’d like it.

  • David

    Hardly. Do people play keepaway with your hat?

  • MaryAnn

    remarkably undecided as to its own message

    Perhaps it’s not undecided. Perhaps it’s not spoonfeeding you its message, which you said you didn’t like.

  • David

    I didn’t suggest that it’s messages were subtle or unclear. In fact, they seemed hamhanded and inconsistent. Perhaps, then, you could let me know the subtle point(s) I missed?

  • Ed

    Writers usually give you clues in characters’ names or names of towns, etc…

    Anton = Saton
    Chigurh = Chagrin, (french: sorrow)

    I think you can look at the movie/book in many ways.

    The Coens said last night that they had only adapted Homer and this author. Why did they like the book??

    Perhaps, it is because it is a very simple tale.

    A tale of evil. The evil in man (be it by greed,money lust, etc) that makes him do unbelieveable things, which lead to destruction.

    In this case, Anton is the embodiment of evil, almost like a fallen angel, almost supernatural.

    Everyone who is tempted by evil (greed) in this tale, meets death (Moss, the drug dealers, the attorney in Houston, Hitman Woody).

    All others in the path of Death have a 50-50 chance to die, just by contact with the character, on his way, on his mission.

    Clerk, Moss’ wife, trailer park attendant…

    Which brings me to the question: does Moss’ wife die at the flip of the coin?

    I thought it was purposely left undecided, but my friend tells me that Chigurgh cleans his shoes (as if he has blood on soles) on the ground…so yeah, he killed her….?

    The movie is also set in the early 80’s, which was still somewhat of an innocent time, where drug violence was just beginning to rear its head everywhere, even desolate places…

    the lament of the sheriff is exactly that: “there used to be a time, when the sheriff didn’t have to carry around his gun”, now it’s “No Country for Old Men”…

    it’s the changing o’ the times, for the worst…

    Has this tale been told before? sure, plenty of times, in many ways, over many years…we have all heard the same stories over the centuries…

    What makes it cool, is finding new ways to tell the tale…

    …and of course, being reminded to shun evil from our lives…

  • Great flick, but WHERE’S THE MONEY?

  • MaryAnn

    It’s not about the money. It doesn’t matter where the money is. This isn’t a Tarantino movie. :->

  • Fred

    It’s about artful snuffing, after all.

  • MaryAnn

    Do you honestly believe that, Fred?

  • Since this movie won the Oscar, I decided to give it another chance. And I realized that I liked it even less the second time. For me, this movie is just substanceless, masquerading as substanceful. All of the characters are ciphers, making choices that are just completely senseless to me.

    There are terrific stories to be made about innocent people stumbling there way into the world of crime. In fact, several great stories have been told about very similar situations to No Country.

    Frankly, I find that No Country for Old Men isn’t nearly as good as similar movies in the genre (ordinary people’s greed thrusts them into the world of crime), most notably Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan (which features much more understandable and realistic reactions by the characters to finding a cache of drug money) or the Coen’s own Fargo (for my money, Gaear Grimsrud is a more believable sociopath than Anton Chigurh).

    I hated the ending less this time around, but still find it fairly unsatisfactory. Not so much because Moss died and Chigurh got away (that fit the themes of the film for me this time around), but because Tommy Lee Jones’ character was such a lazy coward. (His perpetual disinterest and unwillingness to work on the case really, really bugged me the second time around.)

    For my money, two of the better movies that came out this year–and certainly movies that were better than No Country for Old Men–were Gone Baby Gone and 3:10 to Yuma, both of which featured characters that were much more recognizably human than this year’s Best Picture winner.

    This is not to say that I don’t think that No Country for Old Men is a *bad* movie, but I don’t think it was the best film of the year, nor does it really rank as near the top in its genre. Again, I cannot recommend A Simple Plan enough in this regard. Both movies had similar themes, but I think that A Simple Plan dealt with those themes far more believably and intelligently.

  • Fred

    Actually, I was completely serious. I think No Country for Old Men is a very stylish snuff film. It’s all quick slick and sanitized to allow it to be “enjoyed” by sophisticates who would rather not admit a certain desire to see human beings dispatched in unusual or disturbing ways by a dehumanizing killer. All of this is wrapped in a very simplistic plot (it had to have at least that) and abstruse philosophizing (to give the talking heads some analytical hay to hid behind), but two hours of dispassionate and at time indiscriminate and cruel killing is what is, MaryAnn.

  • MBI

    “It’s about artful snuffing, after all.”

    You’re a fucking idiot.

    Not for calling this movie artful snuffing. For disapproving of artful snuffing. Go back to CAPAlert where you came from.

  • MaryAnn

    I think No Country for Old Men is a very stylish snuff film.

    Of course. I love how the Coens fetishize all the death and linger on it. Oh, no, wait, they couldn’t have done that, because they had to keep it sanitized for us sophisticates.

    I’m so confused…

  • Ed

    In response to:

    because Tommy Lee Jones’ character was such a lazy coward.

    You have totally missed the movie, and maybe should watch a 3rd time.

    The Ol’ Sheriff is wise.

    The reason he doesnt go out to meet the Feds is that he has seen it all, and knows that they won’t get anything out of meeting, just wasting time…

    In his exchanges with his deputy, you can tell he is 2 steps ahead of the game in every way.

    He is tracking both Moss + Chigurh, but knows that calling the cavalry will get more people killed with these two guys…

    So he tracks them, they move fast. He actually catches up with them, evident in one of the final scenes, when he enters room 114.

    Chigurh is there but does not kill him. Why ?

    Is it his code? or is his mission done, to get the money ?

    Why does he not kill the sheriff ?

    he obviously had no trouble killing the deputies before.

    Another thing, is the Sheriff demeanor throughout the movie, a little bit of sadness….

    and wouldn’t you be, if your town started getting run over by thugs and violence?

  • Fred

    “You’re a fucking idiot.

    Not for calling this movie artful snuffing. For disapproving of artful snuffing. Go back to CAPAlert where you came from.”

    Don’t you just love it when children like MBI graze the Internet?

  • Fred

    And, yes, it is possible simultaneously to sanitize death and fetishize [sic] it, MaryAnn. The fact that there is so little to this film except a string of killings (along with close ups on wounds), you’d think Mel Gibson was involved.

  • David

    There is so little going on in No Country for Old Men, apart from the ruthless killing, that I suppose some might legitimately see it as a snuff film. It is, after all, a relentless string of killings, some of which arrive out of left field, and others of which truncate the various story threads before they even have a chance to ripen. And there is this Mel Gibson-ish depiction of violence and violated flesh — from the strangulation scene to the characters treating their own shotgun wounds.

    Again, to me, there is so little else going on in the movie — it is purely about ruthless killing, it seems, and the chilling/pathetic nature of human beings on either end of the guns or air tank — that it seems to be a film almost entirely about men killing men (and how vicious the world really is despite all of our pretending to the contrary). It’s like watching a series of gladiator matches, I suppose, with no plot other than survival in a war of all against all.

    Does that make it a snuff film? Maybe.

  • MBI

    Oh fucking please. The idea that “nothing goes on in this movie but killing” is stupid because it’s a ridiculously reductive statement, but more importantly, because it implies that killing is for some reason an unworthy subject for a film. “No Country for Old Men” is a snuff film like “Die Hard” or “Platoon” is a snuff film. The idea that this movie is an “artful snuff” film indicates that you are neither a) smart enough to engage a film on its ideas, or b) honest enough to enjoy some good movie violence. The very presence of the word “artful” in your insult is mind-boggling; doesn’t that indicate that the film is an artistic triumph of some kind? Did you even realize that this film had a plot and characters? Or does that not matter because it was about the oh-so-distasteful subject of violence? God, how could anyone even think of making a movie that has violence in it? Run along back to the safety of the Hallmark Channel so that you don’t have to deal with anything that might elicit an emotional reaction of any significance. People like you are going to kill cinema as an art form.

    And as a side note, snuff films are meant to be deplorable because they’re real death; realistic movie death is not the same thing. Has everyone forgotten that?

  • joe

    Maryann,

    What I was looking for in the ending had nothing to do with things blowing up, a happy conclusion, or any other played out cliches. I was looking for an interesting spin or something different. What I got was GARBAGE.

    This movie had a good story, superb acting, great scenes, flawless production etc. etc. etc. IT WAS NOT MOVIE OF THE YEAR NOT EVEN IN THE TOP 20.

    ALL the critics with few exceptions loved this movie…..and they are all tools. They heard Coen Brothers and wrote down 5 stars. If they actually watched the movie then they must have realized, “well I didnt really understand the ending and I know the rest of the people wont either so let me continue to be a pompous egotist and tell the world how great it was.” And that goes the same for all those who defend it. Just stop.

    Fiction is reserved for entertainment. Mixing in serious ideas or making the viewer really think about the lot is achieveable, and personally more enjoyable, but NCFOM missed the mark big time. This movie was pulling it off until the motel scene when lewellyn died, then it spiraled into mediocrity and nonsense. PERIOD!

    The only reason these blogs are so popular is people are so shocked by how much the movie sucked after hearing nothing but great things that they seek out what they missed on the internet only to discover they didnt miss anything, YES IT DID SUCK, NO YOU ARE NOT ALONE, NO YOU DIDNT MISS ANYTHING EARLIER IN THE FILM. PERIOD!

  • MBI

    “I was looking for an interesting spin or something different. What I got was GARBAGE.”

    Don’t pretend you wanted something different, then complain when you get something different.

    As a side note, assuming that people didn’t REALLY like something that you didn’t like is, has been, will always be annoying and stupid. Tempting, I realize, but annoying and stupid. A far more valid, if equally annoying, response is to call people an elitist douchebag for liking things you don’t like — at least then you don’t seem like a moron who doesn’t understand that sometimes people have different opinions from your own.

  • Cecil

    As an aside, Moss returning to the scene didn’t allow Chigurh to pick up his tail…the bag did. Chigurh would have tracked Moss regardless of his return to “the scene” or not…Moss still had the bag with the homing device, n’est pas?

  • MaryAnn

    What I got was GARBAGE.

    Maybe you got garbage. Some of us got more.

    ALL the critics with few exceptions loved this movie…..and they are all tools.

    Tools? Explain, please. What have I, for instance, achieved by publicly proclaiming my love for this film? Seriously. What’s the point of pretending to like a film you don’t like?

    let me continue to be a pompous egotist

    So there’s no chance AT ALL that we fans of the film actually like it?

    Fiction is reserved for entertainment.

    What does that mean?

    PERIOD!

    Ah, I see. So yours is the last word on this film, is it?

  • Ed

    Question: “What would You Do ?”

    Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?

    You seem to forget that the movie is based on a book, and that is the way it was written.

    The Coens talked about staying faithful to the story, and that’s how it was written.

    Sometimes we forget, after seeing a movie, that it all comes from someone’s imagination.

    I would suggest that you try writing a story sometime. It is a wonderful experience.

    A writer never knows how his story is going to end.

    The writer starts developing the characters and story, and after awhile, they take life of their own, even commanding the writer to write their lines…its an amazing feeling.

    Most viewers complain about Moss’ deleted death, but its the same way in the book. But, did we really need to see him getting shot ? would that satisfy you ? really ?

    It seems that by the author deleting the scene, it gives a bit of Sanctuary to the Moss character, although shot, his intentions were good (taking money from dead, bad people to live happily and give the best to his wife).

    The true question is:
    “If you found a big stack of dollars, and nobody knew about it, what would you do ?” …

    I recall being asked this in school at sometime…..

    People who answered, turn it over to the police, got the teachers’ approval. The young rebel in class, that said, “Sheeet, I would keep it!” got the students’ approval….funny, huh?

    What’s uncanny is the Moss guy’s wisdom, when he asks the drug dealer shot in truck, “Where’s the last man standing?”, and tracks down the cash.

    These are truly special characters, well developed if you look closely. Please don’t dismiss this as a violence-only movie. Look a little deeper.

    Even the lesser characters, like the border agent, reveals alot, at first he drills and hassles Moss, then after hearing he is a Vet, orders someone to give him a ride….uncanny.

  • David

    Oh fucking please. The idea that “nothing goes on in this movie but killing” is stupid because it’s a ridiculously reductive statement, but more importantly, because it implies that killing is for some reason an unworthy subject for a film. “No Country for Old Men” is a snuff film like “Die Hard” or “Platoon” is a snuff film. The idea that this movie is an “artful snuff” film indicates that you are neither a) smart enough to engage a film on its ideas, or b) honest enough to enjoy some good movie violence. The very presence of the word “artful” in your insult is mind-boggling; doesn’t that indicate that the film is an artistic triumph of some kind? Did you even realize that this film had a plot and characters? Or does that not matter because it was about the oh-so-distasteful subject of violence? God, how could anyone even think of making a movie that has violence in it? Run along back to the safety of the Hallmark Channel so that you don’t have to deal with anything that might elicit an emotional reaction of any significance. People like you are going to kill cinema as an art form.

    First off, in case you were wondering whether you come off as arrogant, you do. I doubt you were wondering, however.

    That said, I don’t think anyone here said that there was “nothing” in this movie except killing. That appears to be your own strawman, and you did no one a service (apart from yourself) in crafting such an easy target. Moreover, bringing up Die Hard and Platoon likewise serves little purpose. Yes, those are two films in which people are killed. So what? Moreover, whether they are profound or not, Die Hard and Platoon have mountains character development and plot compared to No Country for Old Men — which has so little of either to make the film, in my opinion, little more than series of visually polished encounters between a disturbed serial killer and his victims.

    Although I didn’t use the term artful, I can see how it could apply here. I would have preferred the term stylish, or artfully crafted — since the Coens are skilled in making visually attractive and well-edited films (along with talented DPs). Art can be good or bad, of course, and “artful” doesn’t always connote artistic merit.

    And so, returning to your strawman, everyone (apart from the hypothetical foe to which you respond) recognized that there were characters here, albeit thinly drawn, and a plot, albeit sheer. It is for this reason the movie left me dissatisfied — and not, as you argued with your strawman, because it deals with the subject of violence. I remarked on my appreciation for The Professional, a central theme of which is violence. But because, unlike No Country for Old Men, it isn’t content with the obvious, it offers a richness that eclipses the Coens efforts. Not even you think, I would have to guess, that The Professional belongs on the Hallmark Channel.

    What irks me most is your haughty tone about “killing cinema” as an art form. You like the word fuck, so let me use here: This movie may be art in a broad sense, but it’s weak art, as far as I can tell. To the extent that it triggers an emotional reaction, so does getting mugged by a complete stranger. Sure, you can film that act, but great movies should offer so much more.

    And as a side note, snuff films are meant to be deplorable because they’re real death; realistic movie death is not the same thing. Has everyone forgotten that?

    You suffer from tragic literalism. Snuff films are deplorable not only because they show real death, but also because they appeal to a macabre and prurient interest in the random and senseless — and often brutally remorseless — killing of innocents. If you don’t get a whiff of that with No Country for Old Men, so be it. I do.

  • MaryAnn

    If *No Country for Old Men* is “prurient,” then any depiction of anything in any way is prurient.

  • MBI

    “I doubt you were wondering, however.”

    That’s a big 10-4, good buddy.

    “That said, I don’t think anyone here said that there was “nothing” in this movie except killing. That appears to be your own strawman, and you did no one a service (apart from yourself) in crafting such an easy target. ”

    No, that one guy called it “two hours of dispassionate and at time indiscriminate and cruel killing”. You know, the guy I’m responding to. The one who started in with the whole “snuff film” argument. The one that isn’t you. That guy.

    “No Country for Old Men” is a challenging film. You think there’s “no character development” because it’s cold and detached — personally, I think you’re just not thinking very hard, and I love “The Professional” too, but “The Professional” spells everything out for you and “No Country for Old Men” does not. Every film has a philosophical backbone, even really awful and stupid ones which actively try not to have any. “The Professional” is a heartfelt movie and “No Country for Old Men” is a cerebral one — it may be why you have trouble with it. You’re going to respond by saying that, no, there’s nothing worth thinking about in this movie, and you’re going to sound like a 12-year-old when you do. Either that or you’re going to demand that I explain what there is worth thinking about in this movie, which will indicate that you haven’t even bothered reading or responding to any of the glowing reviews about this movie, including the one at the top of this page.

    And as a side note, “prurient” is a word used exclusively to deride people for deriving enjoyment out of anything. You would be well advised to never use it again. Your sniffy disdain for those who “have macabre interests” smacks strongly of thought police, as far as I’m concerned. Believe it or not, the random and senseless killing of innocents is a big part of the world we live in, and as far as I’m concerned, the world NEEDS movies about it. I hate the “snuff film” argument applied to any actual movie (except possibly actual snuff films) because it implies that there are themes so dark that we should actively look away from them; it’s an argument for intellectual weakness.

  • David

    If *No Country for Old Men* is “prurient,” then any depiction of anything in any way is prurient.

    No one said that.

    As for MBI, sorry about the word “arrogant.” I should have said “arrogant jerk.” Your misreading of my post couldn’t be more breathtaking. You are responding, yet again, to your own misreadings. Carry on, I suppose. You don’t appear willing or able to communicate.

  • Klaus S

    You are one of my absolute favorite-reviewers, the other one being James Berardinelli.
    Nevertheless – I cannot understand why cynical,violent nihilistic movies like this one becomes so praised. I can’t. Here in Sweden too. I think the following from a review in Worls Socialist Website do my emotions justice:
    “Critics have been virtually unanimous in praising this film. Technique, proficiency, and boldness are routinely cited as its merits. The same could of course be said of Jack the Ripper. The brutality of actual life, in America and beyond, is stylized and drained of its human qualities. The nobility of suffering and of the hope for redemption—at bottom, these are profoundly human, not theological constructs—are clinically excised. Some just enjoy the ride for what it is. Others inform us that this is a useful and proper artistic approach: reproducing, and in fact enhancing actual brutality as to induce a sense of dislocation and discomfort in the viewer. But this final product is not so much alienating—a jarring artistic experience that can be genuine and constructive—as it is alien.”

  • MBI

    “No one said that.”

    For the love of God, QUIT IT WITH THAT. Yes, someone said that. You said that. You compared it to a snuff film specifically because of its pandering to prurient interest. You don’t get to say things like, “You know what you’re like? Hitler. There are definitely similarities between you and a bloodthirsty evil genocidal maniacal dictator,” then turn around and act like I’m putting words in your mouth when I say you called me evil and insane. If that’s where the crux of my alleged “misreading” comes from, you’re being willfully naive about what you wrote. In case you were wondering whether you come off as ignorant, you do. I doubt you were wondering, however.

  • MaryAnn

    The nobility of suffering

    Suffering is “noble”? And we fans of this movie are the ones accused of getting off on pain and violence?

    And please, MBI and David and everyone else: let’s keep the namecalling to a bare minimum. Like none. Surely we can discuss this film without resorting to flinging insults.

  • David

    Sorry about the insults.

    MBI’s inability to grasp subtlety (a film can appeal to prurient interests in some way without, itself, being prurient) combined with an arrogant manner is a bit infuriating. In any event, his and mine never really was a discussion … so, I’ll move on.

  • David

    I’d like to add, also, that you are my favorite reviewer. Period. That’s why I felt combined to speak up about this movie. I think Klaus’s post expressed much of how I feel about this film.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m glad you spoke up. I still don’t agree with you, though. And I don’t think there’s subtlety in this:

    (a film can appeal to prurient interests in some way without, itself, being prurient)

    I think it’s just plain nonsensical. Or else you’re confirming, pretty much, what I said above: If this movie can appeal to prurient interests, then anything can. Sure, maybe it’s true — I don’t know that it is, but maybe it is — that some segment of the audience for this film is getting off on the violence. But those people would get off on anything. And it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for other segments of the audience to appreciate this on levels that have absolutely nothing to do with getting off on the violence.

    But I do find it hard to believe that any significant segment of the audience is flocking to this movie because they’re getting a rush from the violence. All one needs to do is to compare this film to the entire subgenre of torture porn — the *Saw* sequels, the *Hostel* movies, etc — to see the enormous difference between films intended to be violence-porn (and that succeed, at least as far as audience reaction is concerned) and those that are not. This movie simply is not meant to be pornographic. It’s the same difference between serious movies that are about sexual matters and movies that are merely sex-porn. Someone who is unwilling or unable to think about things beyond the slimmest surface of a film — I’m not saying that applies to you, David — might get off on the sex scenes in *Lust, Caution,* for instance, but that doesn’t mean we should condemn that film as “prurient.”

  • hofersj

    MaryAnn,

    As my first post to your site, I want to say that I really enjoy your reviews and commentary. I agree with the vast majority of your reviews, but even when I don’t, I think you make insightful points.

    Now that my fawning is out of the way, most of the comments that I have read or heard regarding NCFOM have mirrored what I have seen here. Many viewers really enjoyed the film or, perhaps more accurately, recognize it as a brilliant piece of filmmaking. A significant number of viewers thought the film was incomprehensible, pointless or otherwise without merit. (This is not to say that all NCFOM viewers are one or the other, just that many fall into one of these two categories.) I fall in to the first camp, but I think the feelings of many of those in the second group stem from philosophic opposition (whether conscious or unconscious) to one of the underpinnings of the film. If you believe (or have difficulty imagining yourself in the shoes of someone that doesn’t) in God or other supernatural forces influencing our lives and that we and the world are not subject to chance happenings, I think one is much more likely to dislike this film.

    Ironically, I think those in the second camp have something in common with Chigurh. I don’t believe the Chigurh character to be a representation of pure evil or that the character believes himself to be godlike. I think, as you have said, that he believes (until the crash) that he is not subject to the vagaries of the world, much like those in the second camp.

    I am not implying that I am particularly enlightened or that people that didn’t like the film are religious rubes. But, if you don’t like the presupposition that we are all subject to chance, you probably aren’t going to like this movie.

  • MaryAnn

    You may have hit on it, that some people don’t like the suggestion that we are at the whim of chance. I’d love for someone who dislikes the film to have made that suggestion.

  • Robert Driver Bishop

    It occurs to me that Chigurh was in the hotel room and confronted the Sheriff with the coin toss choice. Why else did the lawman survive?

    Notice that the Sheriff stops his chase and dedicates himself to life & wife. The ending reflects the second chance we all all long for.

    What are the odds?

  • MaryAnn

    Is the sheriff someone who “needs” a second chance, though. I see tragedy in the end of the sheriff’s tale: he’s been obsoleted out of a job that he loves.

  • Ed

    Chigurh doesn’t kill the Sheriff, because it was not necessary, he had the money, his objective complete.

    However, If the sheriff would have turned around, he was a goner.

    Before, he had killed lawmen, random drivers, all it seems for a reason. (getting away, needing a car)

    But then, he sometimes plays god with his coin toss.

    He shows up at Moss’ wife, (since he warned Moss) and decides to offer a coin toss.

    IMO, he kills her, then gets run over, after what seemed like tying all loose ends.

    You can see this as punishment for killing the true innocent person in the story or a random accident.

  • Markus

    I just saw the movie last night with a few friends. We got excited only to be dismayed. I don’t know what the critics are raving about. Feeling sorry for the Coen Brothers is more like it perhaps??. The movie was exciting for a while albeit horrificly bloody for the masses but the ending put it in the “Crummy” category as one of the worst movies of the year. Hollywood, like our foreign policy these days, has gone blind in seeing through the muck. Save your mulla on this one. It’s not even worth buying the DVD unless you want to destroy the mood of a nice evening.

  • MaryAnn

    Hollywood, like our foreign policy these days, has gone blind in seeing through the muck.

    Can you explain what this means?

  • joe

    I am one of those people wo “falls in category 2,” I have made my feelings quite clear in earlier posts. To suggest that people didnt like this movie because of religious conviction or the whole chance/destiny arguement is complete nonsense. I am an athiest and to a certain extent I do believe in chance. My dislike of ncfom has nothing to do with any of the underlying meanings or intentions of the writers, I simply feel that the story fell apart 3/4 of the way through and that the Coen brothers did no justice to the original story (which i will admit i did not read, but have done some research into) by leaving out key parts or the beginning and ending.

    I truly liked the majority of the movie, I liked the hudsucker proxy and raising arizona (Coen Bros), I liked other movies that were based around the whole chance subject (Traffic, Crash – only ones i could think of at this time), I was just thoroughly disappointed in the way things didnt come together as i had expected.

    Let me also just clarify one thing. While IMO I cannot understand why anybody would enjoy this movie, I respect other peoples opinions even when they differ. WHAT I CANNOT STAND is people who pretend to like movies (or anything else for that matter) based solely on the opinion of others, especially movie critics.

    My final thought for tonight is it seems to be clear that a large percentage of the people who have seen ncfom did not like the movie. I think that based upon the previews and maybe even past coen bros movies, people did not get what they expected. I know I didnt.

  • Nathan

    joe,

    as a Cormac McCarthy fanatic i can tell you that the movie is about as faithful to the book as it could be. otherwise i doubt the normally reclusive McCarthy would not only attend the Oscars but also stand and applaud the Coens.

    as for the rest of it, a lot of people liked the movie. get over it.

  • Wanda

    I’m a simple moviegoer – I’m not looking for artistic quality. I want a movie I can understand and enjoy.

    I dare say that if you didn’t know the famous Coens directed this movie you wouldn’t be so quick to fawn over it.

    The story was weak, the characters underdeveloped and the ending was the worst.

  • MontyGurl

    This whole debate is really interesting to me, because it shows the difference between critics and “normal” people. It seems to me that a critic’s primary concern is “Was this a good movie?” while everday people ask “Did I enjoy this?” If critics see a brilliant movie, they will consequently enjoy it – and give it a good review. On the other hand, to most of my friends “boring” is the most damning critique they can bestow. Oftentimes the perspective of the critics and the moviegoers collides (everyone I know loved Juno and Ratatouille), but often times they don’t (No Country for Old Men, Will Smith is on the top of the box office again).

    I’m not trying to imply that critics are out of touch, just that they approach movies from a completely different perspective than most people who just want to be entertained.

    By the way, I absolutely loved this movie and I’m so glad it won the Oscar.

  • Klaus S

    I do dislike this movie from a moralistic point of view, not from a religious one. We are heavily influenced by chance, yes, but we do have a certain freedom of choice, we do have a certain ability to know what we are doing.
    I am not able to watch a film like it was cut-off from the rest of life. Maybe others can, but I can not value a movie purely from it’s cineastic qualities. I wouldn’t care for the most beautiful singing voice of a psychopath. I’d prefer a clumsy performance sprung from emotions and good will before a shining performance coming out of nothingness, or maybe even evil. The adoration of empty, meaningless form and surface. Where will we go from this? I’d say some kind of cineastically clever evil. The Devil will have a skilled tailor.

  • MaryAnn

    WHAT I CANNOT STAND is people who pretend to like movies (or anything else for that matter) based solely on the opinion of others, especially movie critics.

    That would indeed be pointless, but who does that?

    I’m not trying to imply that critics are out of touch, just that they approach movies from a completely different perspective than most people who just want to be entertained.

    I was entertained by NCFOM. Perhaps what you mean to suggest is that sometimes some critics find entertainment in movies that some members of the general audience do not.

  • MontyGurl

    Yeah, that might be a better way to say it. I just think that critics want to see a good movie, and that will entertain them. But average people usually have different standards about what they find entertaining in a movie. Most people I know say things like “it was funny” or “it was sweet” or “I had a good time” as praise for a movie, not “the acting was brilliant” or “the story was completely fresh”.

  • MontyGurl

    Oh, on my first post when I said “Will Smith” I meant Will Ferrell. That’s an odd typo right there.

  • dylan

    I just watched the movie with my girlfriend and my mother, I came out amazed, the other two hated it.

    After a minute or two of them going “WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT” I settled them down, and explained pretty much what you said in your review; It’s all iconic. Some people will understand it, some people won’t. My mother openly admits that she’s old fashioned, and wanted to see a true ending.

    My girlfriend, on the other hand, demands to know what everything was about; I try telling her that it’s all there, you just have to read deeper than what your eyes see, and she scoffs at the mere thought of maybe, y’know, looking outside of the box of a movie. I was excited to show her films like Kagemusha, Pulp Fiction (don’t ask me how this missed her radar, she lived a very, very sheltered life) and Ichi the Killer, but now I worry she won’t be able to see outside of the box enough to grasp the true concept of these, and other movies like these.

    I honestly believe the best way to describe peoples feelings of this movie would be how Bardem’s character leaves some peoples lives to chance of a coin; Some people will get it, others won’t. I haven’t read the book, but I just placed my order for it before I stumbled upon this review site/blog/whatever this is. Then again, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself when they complained for 15 minutes straight about the movie, then turned on South Park and laughed their heads off. Somethings are simply deemed upon ones ability to, as I’ve stated before, think outside of the box.

    If you didn’t like the movie? I’m happy for you, move on, as someone stated before; Rambo is coming out on DVD soon, and I hear Saw IV did well at the box office. I’ll stick to watching the one or two worthwhile films Hollywood puts out every 5 years that actually make you think. I can appreciate, and enjoy, both sides.

  • MaryAnn

    wanted to see a true ending.

    See, I totally don’t get that. What is a “true ending”? What was “untrue” about this ending?

  • Richard

    This movie is an allegory about present day America. The ending is uncertain because in fact the outcome is still uncertain. Anton is the executive branch of government, cold, ruthless, a psychopathic killer unable to feel remorse or empathy for anyone. The drugs represent the obscene war profits that Bush and his cronies crave so. The sheriff is a metaphor for Congress, too lazy to do its job of protecting the people from the crimes committed by the executive branch. Moss, a citizen, tries to defend himself but in the end is done in by the stupidity of his mother-in-law, i.e., one of the people. Moss’ wife goes down without a fight, showing how the American people have lost their will to resist evil.

    Mar 9, 2008 18:58:34

  • Klaus S

    I can buy that allegory interpretation. Otherwise it still scares me that a lot of seemingly totally nihilistic “pretty carnage”-movies gets so much acclaim. Not only this movie.

    The first thing we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. —George Orwell

    One can become too much in love with the art of building walls.

  • MaryAnn

    Anyone who suggests that the sheriff is “lazy” or that the carnage is “pretty” (and by extension otherwise pointless) needs to support those contentions. Because they’re so far off base that I don’t see either. So convince me.

  • Steve

    In hihg schol and college, they were many people wo seemed to understand prose and very few who could understand poetry. The movie is like a poem and needs to be viewed in terms much deeper and more meaningful than average movie goers can appreciate. I wish a had a dollar verytime I have heard the expression, “I hate poetry”. And as I read the reviews, I hear that expressed over and over again. Many people do not like the “road less traveled” and want both of clear view of the path and destination. This movie is incredible, not in its lieteral sense, but in its repreentation of “what is coming”.

  • Dino Kontos

    I do agree with the aspect of violent ass movies getting acclaim, but I don’t think that this film, brutal as it was, was as offensive as crap like SAW 4 5 6 7 8 9 – 67. If anything, this may have been a breath of fresh air. I skipped down passed a few of these comments, so forgive me for asking a question so stupid, but what was Chigurs motive? Why did he pardon the kids who offered their help for free? Yet he killed the innocent wife. And also, why then did he spare the gas station clerk with a coin toss, and yet he pulled over someone random and blew their brains out. He’s a psychopath, yeah, I get it. But I like to think that he had something to say deep down beneath the carnage. I’m just looking for a theory as to what the hell is going on. I loved the movie. It’s clearly better than some of the stuff out recently, but I’m still recovering from the movie “High Tension” which I can’t figure out for all the hell in the world. I’m so lost. I like the comment above mine, though! HAHAHAHA. Cool.

  • David

    Just so it’s clear, like others who found little merit to this movie, I am an atheist. Moreso, I have no problem with a movie that shows that we are at the whim of chance. Indeed, we are. Nor do I have a problem with violence in movies. In fact, I count some very violent movies among my favorites, including A Clockwork Orange. I also favor dark endings, and hate the syrupy tripe that Hollywood test audiences applaud. I also have a deep appreciation for poetry, developed during the last ten years of my life.

    All of that said, I think NCFOM is a well-crafted failure of a movie. It looks good, but is lightweight when it comes to poetry, philosophical insight, character development, and story, for reasons stated earlier. I, too, agree that this is a great example of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. It is the “in” thing to adore the Coen Brothers’ films. It gives the reviewer the aura of “getting it,” even when there is very little to be gotten. There is also a kind of aesthetic badge of honor to be displayed for having watched this funeral dirge of a film, with its string of repetitive and banal violence, and emerging with an existential “ooh” or “ahh.” And then to say that it is the pedants and pedestrians who are the ones who say that the violence in this film is more voyeurism than art. To the contrary, I think it is the clearheaded who take that position.

    NCFOM is a simplistic tale with a simplistic point: There are bad people in the world who treat human life like a throwaway, and it’s frightening and difficult for the older generation to comprehend. And it tells that story with one-dimensional characters, in a thinly-plotted broth, set against a beautiful western background. NCFOM is disturbing alright, but mainly because it is such a one-dimensional exercise in adolescent-level psychology. Are there people like Chigurh? Sure. But I bet they have actual personalities and back stories. Is he some archetypal figure? Yeah, in the sense that movie characters often are, representing some facet of the psyche. In good movies, characters like Chigurh can be both. Here, he is barely the latter, and not at all the first.

  • shoop

    Here’s a conversation that will never take place anywhere:

    Disgruntled Moviegoer: Man, I hated, hated, hated that movie. I want everyone involved with that movie to write 1,000 times, “I will not make movies anymore.”

    [Note: I actually said this after watching “The Thin Red Line” some years back.]

    Movie Expert: Please. You just have to read deeper than what your eyes see. Look a little deeper, the ol’ sheriff is wise. Go see the movie for a second, third, or fourth time. You don’t understand these things because you believe in organized religion, you’re afraid to think outside the box, and you don’t like poetry.

    DM: Wow, you’ve described me precisely. Still don’t want to see that movie again, though.

    ME: It’s iconic.

    DM: Well, hell, if it’s iconic, then I’d better haul my ass back to the multiplex. I’ll see you in two hours and two minutes.

    ME: I’ll be here.

    (Two hours and two minutes later.)

    DM: (humbly) You were right–it WAS a great movie. I’ve been so foolish. Thank you.

    ME: My work here is done, citizen. Here’s my silver bullet. (Exits with a hearty “heigh-ho, Silver.”)

    And here’s another conversation that is not happening anywhere…

    Disgruntled Moviegoer: Man, I hated that movie. And I hate anyone who liked that movie.

    Movie Expert: I liked it.

    DM: Horse hockey. You only say you like it because this movie has become a “Snob Hit.” You have to praise it in order to comply with an elite notion of intellectual respectability. If you admit your real feelings about the movie, you’ll sacrifice your cultural capital.

    ME: No, I really did like it. But you’ve described my twin sister exactly.

    (Twin Sister enters, in tears.)

    TS: It’s true–Dear God in Heaven, it’s true! I really hated it, and didn’t have the guts to say it!

    (Exits, pursued by a bear.)

    DM: Well, then stop liking it! Liking this movie only proves that you’re a nihilist who celebrates any sort of senseless violence as long as it’s well-photographed.

    ME: Damn…you’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll go and like something else, then.

    DM: Well, see that you do. Here’s my silver bullet.

    Moral: Some people who appreciate movies can be really arrogant. Some people who don’t appreciate movies can be really hostile. And finally, a note of appreciation to MA, who usually remembers that what she’s offering is an opinion, and who usually doesn’t try to tell people how they should be watching a movie. *And… scene*

  • David

    Being able to look at a movie and form an opinion as to its merit (or lack thereof) doesn’t necessarily make someone either arrogant or hostile. Indeed, it is vitally important that people on both sides speak out vociferously about movies. I strongly believe NCFOM is a relatively empty artifice, and I will argue my point of view strenuously because these are matters that are important to me both professionally and artistically.

  • shoop

    David, I agree with you about 98% on this issue. You’re right–one isn’t necessarily arrogant or hostile if he/she has a strong opinion, and that’s why I deliberately used the qualifier “SOME” in my moral. (As Creon says to Oedipus, “I try to say what I mean.”) I do think, however, that by the time readers get down this far in the thread, they will have witnessed a great deal of both hostility and arrogance, as I was trying to illustrate in my skip-a-de-doo-dah way.

    The 2% I don’t agree with, however, unsettles me a bit. Doesn’t SCARE me, exactly, but unsettles me. Why “vociferously,” exactly? Why the loud outcry, why shout noisily or cause a clamor? And why strain yourself (and, perhaps, others)? Okay, you love movies. They’re important to you–me, too. But there’s a time and a place for being vociferous, and…I’m just not sure this is it.

  • MBI

    “In good movies, characters like Chigurh can be both. Here, he is barely the latter, and not at all the first.”

    Logical fallacy. He is very strongly and poetically the latter. Whether he is the former is debatable, but the point is, I don’t understand why he has to be both to be effective. Some movies deal with ideas more than they do people — the idea that every movie has to be humanistic is a crutch.

    “I, too, agree that this is a great example of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. It is the “in” thing to adore the Coen Brothers’ films.”

    I am probably guilty of using this argument, and probably recently too, but for everyone’s sake, we all need to quit with that. I believe that people genuinely loved Michael Clayton and Juno, two movies I am particularly down on. I don’t have to believe that they did it because they wanted to be cool or anything like it.

    “one-dimensional characters, in a thinly-plotted broth”

    Every movie is thin when you summarize it in a sentence.

    “There is not a single character I cared about who came into the crossfire of Bardem’s narcissistic psychopath. In addition, since he mainly focuses his murderous rage on those who, to one degree or another, are culpable in the theft or attempted recovery of drug money, his persona lacks the cold-blooded arbitrariness of so many real killers that make the news.”

    I find it difficult to argue with you. “The characters are one-dimensional.” No they’re not. “There’s no poetry.” Yes there is. “I didn’t care about the characters.” Well, I did. This conversation doesn’t feel like it can go anywhere. All I can say is that to me, this movie is not empty, but about an empty world where there are no solutions because there’s nothing that can be solved.

    I feel I can rebut at least one point. The whole point of Bardem’s character is that he isn’t like so many real killers, and that his killings are not arbitrary. It tells us this, in fact — he lives by an insane man’s code of honor. That’s what makes him seek out Brolin’s wife even though she caused him no harm and no gain would come from it. There’s method, but no discernible logic.

  • joe

    WOW! Glad to see some people have my back (thank you David and Shoop)! To back up what they and I have said in regards to it being “in to adore the Coen bros” and the “snob hit” effect, on several occasions when a post went up that was anti ncfom, the attacks of go watch saw 4, how about patch adams, and even comments by MaryAnn herself about this isnt a Michael Bay or Tarantino film have been plentiful.

    This is why many of us dont trust critics anymore.

    There have been studies in the political world about how people react to debates. People who watch debates and have not been exposed to the media often have a much different opinion than somebody who watched but then listened to the political commentators/newscasters opinions on how things went. The people who have been exposed to the media are much more likely to have a similar opinion, and more often then not it becomes the “popular opinion.” THIS IS A PROVEN FACT!!!

    Please dont take this the wrong way, I am sure that there are some people that truly did like this movie. I just feel that we live in a society of lemmings, people that cannot or dont think for themselves and/or dont want to appear wrong or stupid because they dont agree with the so called “experts.”

  • joe

    ps- in regars to the Saw comments and the like, while I do occasionally enjoy a mindless comedy, horror, or action flick, I would much rather watch movies like memento, jacobs ladder, donnie darko, usual suspects, shawshank redemption, documentaries, non-fiction, movies that have substance, make you think, have different endings etc.

    I will also admit I LOVED Dumb & Dumber.

    Anybody have any other interesting movies they could recommend??

  • MBI

    “I just feel that we live in a society of lemmings, people that cannot or dont think for themselves and/or dont want to appear wrong or stupid because they dont agree with the so called “experts.””

    You’re only saying that because you heard it from someone else.

  • David

    My responses in boldface:

    “In good movies, characters like Chigurh can be both. Here, he is barely the latter, and not at all the first.”

    Logical fallacy. [If you are going to say there is a “logical fallacy,” at least have the courtesy to identify one.] He is very strongly and poetically the latter. [Care to explain?] Whether he is the former is debatable, but the point is, I don’t understand why he has to be both to be effective. [Of course a character doesn’t need to be both; I never said that. However, having characters who are purely symbolic is extraordinarily difficult to do, particularly if set in a movie that aspires to gritty realism. Here, you have a character (archetype or not) that is so one-dimensional as to be, frankly, silly. He “represents” non-arbitrary “evil” that we find in the world, subject to quirky logic that, in itself, is arbitrary? That’s what some here suggest and, frankly, it’s sounds pretty ridiculous. To me, Chigurh represents nothing other than who he is — a remorseless psychopath who marches to the beat of his own pathological rhythm and gets a charge out of toying with people’s lives and then killing them. A homicidal narcissist, if you will. And he’s in the right job for it, since inspiring complete, irrational fear makes it more likely the next satchel of money won’t be stolen. So what? What are we supposed to glean from that kind of “symbolism”?] Some movies deal with ideas more than they do people — the idea that every movie has to be humanistic is a crutch. [Who said that every movie has to be “humanistic,” whatever the hell that means? Populated by believable human beings? But, if you’re going to populate a film with human beings, you might as well use them as texture (or at least cover) for the “ideas” you’re trying to convey. They don’t need to be “realistic,” but a little nuance and maybe even complexity would help. In my opinion, that’s a harder task and raises the power of the film. The problem with NCFOM is that it doesn’t even do the former well. Tell me what, exactly, Chigurh symbolizes and the big ideas of this film? What’s the big insight?]

    “I, too, agree that this is a great example of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. It is the “in” thing to adore the Coen Brothers’ films.”

    I am probably guilty of using this argument, and probably recently too, but for everyone’s sake, we all need to quit with that. I believe that people genuinely loved Michael Clayton and Juno, two movies I am particularly down on. I don’t have to believe that they did it because they wanted to be cool or anything like it. [It’s okay to say that when you conclude that a film is (1) rather bankrupt of ideas; and (2) you see all sorts of fawning over these directors. It’s akin to the Tim Burton effect, only for a higher class of “intellectuals”.]

    “one-dimensional characters, in a thinly-plotted broth”

    Every movie is thin when you summarize it in a sentence. [It seems a waste of effort given the subject matter, but: NCFOM tells the story of a rather unsympathetic hunter who stumbles upon the scene of a drug deal gone wrong. He concludes, for reasons that are obscure, that the money from the deal must be close by, and he somehow finds it in the clutches of a dead man. He takes it. Later, and inexplicably, he returns to give water to a dying drug dealer, who he scoffed at unsympathetically on several earlier occasions, putting himself directly in the sights of “bad men” who happen to at the scene. The hunter appears to understand well the risk entailed in returning to give water to a man who, if he lives, could finger him. This rather implausible series of events then leads to the hunter being stalked by a “bounty hunter” of sorts intent on retrieving the money. The bounty hunter, a ruthless, dour man who uses strange killing implements (including an impossibly gigantic shotgun/silencer combination), begins relentlessly killing people as he tracks the hunter. He appears to enjoy toying with people’s lives and emotions (both the culpable and innocent bystanders), often making the decision to kill them on the flip of a coin. Eventually, he manages to kill just about everyone, and then gets hit by a car in a random accident that leaves him with a compound fracture. Along the way, we meet a host of unsympathetic people, and a misty eyed sheriff who can’t believe the murder and mayhem going on in the world. How’s that?]

    “There is not a single character I cared about who came into the crossfire of Bardem’s narcissistic psychopath. In addition, since he mainly focuses his murderous rage on those who, to one degree or another, are culpable in the theft or attempted recovery of drug money, his persona lacks the cold-blooded arbitrariness of so many real killers that make the news.”

    I find it difficult to argue with you. “The characters are one-dimensional.” No they’re not. [I’ve explained why I think they’re thin; you maybe might provide evidence to support your contrary view?] “There’s no poetry.” Yes there is. [Ah, I see. If this is how you debate, of course it’s difficult.] “I didn’t care about the characters.” Well, I did. [Good for you. I guess. Maybe you felt sorry for Brolin’s character because he was such an idiot.] This conversation doesn’t feel like it can go anywhere. All I can say is that to me, this movie is not empty, but about an empty world where there are no solutions because there’s nothing that can be solved. [That is one thing you might draw from NCFOM. Except it’s been said before, and much better, and is a ridiculously simple point.]

    I feel I can rebut at least one point. The whole point of Bardem’s character is that he isn’t like so many real killers, and that his killings are not arbitrary. It tells us this, in fact — he lives by an insane man’s code of honor. That’s what makes him seek out Brolin’s wife even though she caused him no harm and no gain would come from it. There’s method, but no discernible logic. [You’re telling me that killing the guy from the chicken truck who gave him directions wasn’t arbitrary? Or the guy from whom he “borrowed” the car? Come on. Insane code of honor? Of course there’s something to be gained from killing Brolin’s wife. Add it to the reputation for ruthlessness you’re cultivating, like the way drug dealers will kill an entire family to show they mean business. Next time, a Brolin-type character may think twice. Or, who knows? He’s an idiot enough that he might take it anyway, and then, once again, go back to the scene of the crime for some ridiculous reason that isn’t even plausible based upon the little that we know about him.]

  • MaryAnn

    I find it, um, interesting, that someone who is complaining about how lacking in human values this movie is cannot understand why a human being might find himself being haunted by the spectre of a dying man asking for water.

  • David

    Because the little that was revealed of this character provided absolutely no credible basis for him taking that action. I suppose we can read that into this character’s behavior — believing that somehow he had this change of heart and decided to keep the dough, but give this shot up guy a drink. But if you decide hydrating this crook is a good idea (so he can finger you later), you still keep the money? And then you approach the crime scene in the most blunderbuss way of all, leaving a pickup truck to be spotted by anyone approaching the crime scene.

    You see, I can accept the change of heart idea if the main character gave us even the slightest clue he was that kind of guy. Not a lot to ask.

  • David

    I must also add that, as a matter of storytelling, it seems critical to me to add a pretty solid basis for having this guy go back to a scene fraught with peril. If it is a matter of conscience, and an about face from the tough guy stance he took the first time around, the writers have to lay a credible foundation for that. I’m not asking for spoon-feeding. In fact, that would be the worst way to approach it. One might make him a little bit torn the first time around, or have something he says or hears trigger him looking at the situation a little different. Having it be the mere passage of time, from which we are to assume a change of heart, was limp, in my opinion.

  • db

    The archetypes of good and evil are obscure. Maybe the Coens are asking viewers to question what it means to be good or bad. The “reality” of morality. If moralty is subjective, does it exist? What if anything does morality have to do with death. None of us have experienced death. How do we know if it is real. Dreams are always important to those concerned.

  • David

    NCFOM does hammer the point again and again that it represents a crossroads in which we leave the realm of “manageable” horror into what may seem to be “unthinkable” horror for those who grew up in less vicious times — a new world where we what human beings are truly capable of doing unshackled from conventional moral restraints. And one thing we learn, again through spoon-feeding, is that there isn’t really anything new about this at all. In other words, that to the extent we have this naive view of inherent human goodness or lines that are too vicious to be crossed, human beings will surprise us every single time. The sheriff represents this candy-coated illusion about human nature, and his rude awakening results more from lack of awareness (and an unwillingness to believe) than reality. Truth is, the horrors to which human beings will stoop, and the lack of care they may be capable of for life in general (and human life in particular), have yet to be fully realized or imagined. NCFOM simply isn’t imaginative enough it telling that story.

  • MBI

    “If it is a matter of conscience, and an about face from the tough guy stance he took the first time around, the writers have to lay a credible foundation for that. I’m not asking for spoon-feeding.”

    I kind of think you are. The man is clearly someone who is not interested in displaying his emotions. You can’t say he’s not that type of person because you don’t really know him. When you call the characters one-dimensional and unsympathetic, I think what you’re really referring is to the distance that the film keeps between it and its characters. Indeed, I think getting inside the characters would painfully violate the mood and the theme of this movie. It would be far more watered down and far less potent. So the movie keeps its distance, then keeps our attention through sheer spectacle — all that violence that you dismissed as prurient way upthread. And, like I said upthread, I don’t know if I can find any common ground with someone who would use the word “prurient” in a negative context. But on some level, I can see what you’re getting at — there is stuff in this movie that would entertain a 13-year-old. On a gut level, part of the appeal of this movie is seeing two badasses face off, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

    This movie is about its universe more than its characters, but I don’t see them as one-dimensional. The whole movie is about the characters’ attempt to find meaning in a meaningless world, especially Brolin and Bardem. You don’t have to look very hard to see that the world looks like shit to Brolin’s character. He got shot at and probably traumatized in ‘Nam and now stuck he’s doing grunt work in Shitville. Bardem probably has something similar in his past, due to the way the film portrays them as parallel figures. Brolin sees the money as the way to add meaning to his life — Bardem finds his own meaning by embracing the world’s meaninglessness.

    But why even continue? You’ve already decided this didn’t hit on a gut level with you, and you said you’ve already rejected others’ attempts at interpretation — you’ve decided that the film is empty and the characters are thin and there was no poetry and so on. No amount of discussion about whether Dakota was real under the “I Know Who Killed Me” review will convince me that it was a good movie either, and no amount of me bitching about “Michael Clayton” is going to convince Maryann that it was bad. What it really all comes down to, seems to me, is that you thought it was boring and you didn’t like how cold it was.

    [b]That is one thing you might draw from NCFOM. Except it’s been said before, and much better, and is a ridiculously simple point[/b], you said up there. Where has it been said before, and how did they do it better? How is it even a simple point? I’m not being antagonistic with these questions, I’m genuinely curious about your taste in movies. I like NCOFM because it’s a good midpoint between the in-your-face crowdpleasing nihilism of [i]Alien[/i] and the icy cerebral nihilism of [i]Elephant[/i]. Do you like [i]Alien[/i]? [i]Elephant[/i], or [i]Last Days[/i]? [i]Night of the Living Dead[/i]? [i]Se7en[/i]? [i]The Devil’s Rejects[/i] or [i]The Texas Chainsaw Massacre[/i]?

  • variable303

    In my opinion, people need to understand that we as viewers should try not to judge films using a singular set of standards. Too many people watched NCfOM with expectations that were too rigid, expectations that have ingrained themselves in the minds of many from years of watching and absorbing tried and tested movie formulas. Too an extent, I’m guilty of this too. Movie formulas become formulas because the public as a whole embraces them. I love when the justice is served at the end. I love when nerd finally gets the girl. I’m one of many who have been conditioned to seek out traditional depictions of conflict, climax, and closure.

    However, I also do my best to try to a judge movie not by comparing it to other films, but by it’s own merits, and the standards it sets for itself. If I go see a Michael Bay movie, such as, “The Rock”, I’m going to watch it with the mindset that I’m viewing it solely for entertainment, in the same way one might enjoy eating comfort foods. I expect it to follow a formula that’s easy to digest. Sometimes, we just want a bowl of mac n’ cheese right? On the contrary, if I’m viewing a indie flick, I try to clear my mind of preconceived notions of what movies “should” be. In short, I don’t judge caviar by the same standards I judge chili cheese dogs. Both can taste good or bad, but the point is they set out to achieve different goals.

    After reading some of these posts, some questions come to mind. In regards to movies, how do we define whether a film is “good” or “bad”? What is the purpose of a movie? Is it solely for entertainment? Or could it’s goal merely be to provoke thought, introspection, and discussion? Many may think NCfOM fails to entertain, but it’s impossible to deny that this movie succeeds in the latter.

  • Klaus S

    As for this movie, as for Pulp Fiction – shiny but empty. That’s kind of ok, there are a lot of worse movies out there. What disturbs me is the 99.9 % adoration of flicks like this and Pulp Fiction. The pseudo-seriousness in it, and yes, the emperors new clothes-thing. I don’t know for certain, of course, but I feel and believe that the Coens doesn’t show us all this death and suffering because of anything else than a kind of ironic cynic humour, a rug of shoulders, prestige and dollars. The get both worlds, they get the popcorn munching crowds who just as well could get their catharsis by some “cheaper” movie, and they get the cineasts, who only cares about the craftmanship, who really could like the party days in Nuremberg in the 1930s just as well because of it’s cleverly crafted beauty. “It’s just parades you know, it’s just music and engaging speeches! What the hell are you yelling about?”
    If, say, 50 % of reviewers loved this movie and the other half not, I would much more at ease, but this overall adoration of these kinds of movies, by the “intellectual elite” is scary. I read some reviews regarding “Sin City”, an overt speculation in aestectic violence. The reviews said “This is what life really is like, how ugly and nasty it really is” and another poster also expressed something similar. This and other similar movies are remedies against “candy-coating” and “syrup”. It shows us the Truth of life.
    Well, I object strongly against that. It might show us PART of the truth, but not the whole truth. I repeat that, not the WHOLE truth.
    Just as lies, violence, suffering, sadism exists, so does truth, loyalty, good will, tenderness and, yes, unselfish love, exists. And you do not have to have a relgious faith to have experienced that.
    Something wicked this way comes, something nasty is happening here. It’s like a collective self-hypnosis. “yes, yes, the world is like this, it’s like this, it’s like this…such is the truth, the truth, the truth”. It’s like a psychological preparation for something.

  • donny

    The killings in this movie were portrayed less and less graphically throughout, starting from the bloody handcuff strangling, to visually hiding a killing behind a shower curtain, to the visually and aurally absent killing of carla jean. This coincides with TLJ drifting farther and farther away from his willingness to pursue the killer, as well as his job in general. The lack of confrontation at the end is TLJs character’s “reward” for retiring

  • mike

    I stumbled upon this website solely because of NCFOM.

    I watched NCFOM yesterday and I didn’t like it. But because of the way it ended, I felt that I had missed something (I did watch it with a little 2 year old running around) so I wanted to hear what other people’s interpretations were.

    I admit, I rented NCFOM because of the reviews I saw in the paper and the fact that it won an academy award. Honestly, I should have known better.

    I think, as someone else said, there is a difference between critics (or people who are really into movies)and just regular movie goers (which I definitely am).

    I want to be, at the least, entertained. Movie critics and enthusiasts want more. They want great editing, beautiful cinematography, expert lighting, and other movie aspects that I really don’t care about.

    Those things are fine and I am not going to put anyone down who loves those aspects of movies.

    But at the same time, why is it that anyone who doesn’t like this movie is put down as not being capable of understanding its deep meanings? Or as I feel it is implied, those who didn’t like the movie are just plain dumb.

    The whole time I am reading what other people have written about NCFOM I kept thinking of the Matrix movies (which I am sure are not liked here). They were movies with a deep meaning that most movie goers didn’t get (not because they are dumb but because they see a movie for what it is, entertainment).

    Most of those I know didn’t like the Matrix movies, but I didn’t put them down because of it. I just looked at it differently then they did. At that is fine with me.

    Or also, the Lord of the Rings movies, which I didn’t like. But I was told this was because I missed some gigantic meaning underneath about WWI or something. So be it, I didn’t like them.

    That being said, the Matrix movies and the Lord of the Rings trilogy had a climax. NCFOM didn’t.

    To me, a movie (NCFOM) that started out at such a high level ended on just the opposite. It has nothing to do with mindless violence, it has to do with ending with some excitement or suspense.

    I understand that TLJ had to give his speech about his dreams at the end, but like others said, why couldn’t he have done that while walking towards the hotel? Or while in there?

    I find it hard to believe that the people who loved this movie wouldn’t have agreed that ending that way would have been better.

    Overall, I agree with the people who didn’t like this movie. I expected so much (but I should know better that to trust critics and the academy awards who seem to pick movies based on politics rather than entertainment value), but was disappointed.

    Let the flood gates open: you should watch saw 67 or you just don’t get it and so on…

    The fact of the matter is, a movie can have a deeper meaning and still be entertaining. To me that is more of a challenge. Make something that outwardly seems simple and entertaining, but underneath is complex.

    NCFOM may have accomplished the latter (although I don’t know if I agree with that), but it didn’t accomplish the former (well at least, not after 2/3 of the way through).

    A masterpiece, in my opinion, is a movie that keeps you entertained but also leaves you thinking. NCFOM may leave you thinking, but I don’t think it entertained.

  • David

    Offhand, one movie that echoed a message similar to the one ascribed to NCFOM, but did it far more successfully: Pan’s Labyrinth. Pan’s Labyrinth, I think, was a meditation on the clash between our wishes about the world and the reality of it, between the heroic, creative act of seeking more and the brutal truth of reality and human nature. For me, NCFOM did a fair job in portraying the brutality and senselessness of the world, but little else. To some extent, the sheriff and some other characters reflected a somber acceptance of the devolution of society into horrific and extreme brutality and greed, leading to the overall message (which, again, I think was beaten into the ground) that the world is senseless and violent and appears to be increasingly so (but probably isn’t — it’s just more of the same), and that in one way or another we must accept it and either live (and die) by those terms or retreat. Of course, then, the main character makes a final retreat into a dream. There really is nowhere else to go. If that point wasn’t worn on the movie’s sleeve, so to speak, and if I didn’t feel so lectured to by the film, I might have found it more satisfying and interesting. In contrast, Pan’s Labyrinth wove a far more imaginative dream-life as an absorbing counterpoint, and an ending that stirred the imagination.

    Indeed, this discussion, and the last post in particular, brought me full circle to what I felt in the aftermath of NCFOM. I felt as if I sat through a one-note lecture on an obvious point. It lacked the storytelling power to grip me and permit me to suspend disbelief about the plot and characters. As I sat there, another movie came to mind: Open Water. Like Open Water, I found the characters in NCFOM uninteresting and unsympathetic. And, also like Open Water, it felt like the cinematic equivalent of watch how long people last on the thin ledge of a building. Now, NCFOM has better craftsmanship and better acting, and more complicated concept and backdrop. (I know that isn’t saying much when you’re comparing a film to Open Water.) But, sitting there, I felt as if this was the directors’ effort to brutalize the audience with as bleak and meaningless a view of humanity as they could drum up. See how awful the world is? See how pitiful people are? Might this Chigurh guy be doing some of these folks a favor? Aren’t Chigurh’s “principles” at least effective in the real world? Isn’t he a top rung predator in an ever-harshening world? Aren’t you disturbed now? And, to me and the person I was with, the answer was, “What else do you have?” It was like sitting through Anomie 101 taught by an earnest TA when the cinematic world has served up graduate classes in the same vein.

  • stephany

    Well, the message of this movie is profound if you don’t think about the the absurdity of the world too much. I, however, spend way too much time thinking about it for my own good. NCFOM makes this statement: Shit happens. There are crazy people, there is brutality, greed, random terror, calculated torture, it’s always been around and those who think they can do anything about it are fools. And? So? Slick film making, but not earth-shattering in meaning. How I answer the question about whether a movie is “good” or a work of art is “good” is to ask myself if it changed my life, even in some small way. This movie did not. I felt just sort of “Oh, yeah. Bad stuff happens. Camus said it ages ago when he referred to the “benign indifference of the universe.” Existentialism, anyone?

  • David

    Nice post, Stephany. You did a better job summing up my feelings than my own ridiculously long missives.

  • john

    My problem with the movie is this: if you are going to subvert genre and storytelling conventions, you better have a damn good reason for doing it. Doing it just to be weird and artsy doesn’t cut it.

    On not showing Moss’s death scene: there is a good reasons for having a death of a significant character happen offscreen – when one is following a main character who isn’t present at the time. Up to Moss’ death in the movie, he was the main character, not Ed Tom. The Coen’s cheated us of a climax, in the process sucking all the energy of their movie.

    On the sudden ending: I have a confession – I loved the Sopranos ending. It seemed obvious to me that Tony was assassinated. When he least expected it, the lights just went out. In this instance, an unexpected stylistic choice served the story perfectly. Contrast that with NCFOM’s ending: the cryptic dream only reinforced the fact that Bell was too old for this game (thanks, I got that from the title). It didn’t add anything to the picture, but made it felt artificial and forced. One dubious bonus is it gives self-styled intellectuals the chance to wax philosophetical about the “deeper meaning”.

    The car crash scene needed to go as well. Yeah, I get it, it shows the Randomness of Fate. Thaat’s great, but I noticed it during the coin toss (both times!). Like the aforementioned “old man” theme, this is beating a dead horse. In the end, this is an intriguing, visceral, and ultimately flawed movie that I fear history will judge harshly once the awards season glow fades.

  • joe

    Some great posts by Stephany, Mike & Variable….I think Davids were good as well, not positive because I can never find the time to read an entire one lol!

    MBI – you seem to vehemently disagree with many of the people, even to the extent of making personal attacks, who didnt like ncfom. Answer this question, what did you honestly like about the movie….or are you so angry and condescending because we get too close to the truth?

    And another question for all those, like myself, who didnt feel ncfom was oscar worthy. What movie should have won? I personally think 2007 was a weak year…michael clayton was too predictable, 3:10 to Yuma was good but not great, american gangster really fell off at the end (i know it was a true story). So what should have won?

  • MBI

    “Or are you so angry and condescending because we get too close to the truth?”

    Aw, man, ya got me. You also nailed it when you said everyone only likes it because it was so heavily acclaimed by other critics (especially MaryAnn! I always agree with MaryAnn!) That’s why I’m condescending. Incidentally, what color is this kettle, in your opinion?

    I’ve said why I like this movie. Last post I wrote. Read it.

    David: I love Pan’s Labyrinth, more than No Old Men for Old Country for that matter, but I really don’t see what one has to do with the other. (I suspect Open Water may be more germane to the conversation, but I haven’t seen it.) No Country for Old Men is partly about a world devoid of meaning or heroes; the world of Pan’s Labyrinth has plenty of heroes and meaning, both the reality and dream world aspects of it.

    Stephany: You state, “How I answer the question about whether a movie is ‘good’ or a work of art is ‘good’ is to ask myself if it changed my life, even in some small way.” I never ask myself that, as I don’t think it’s fair to an artist. For me, an artist’s job is not to present you with new ideas, it’s just to present them in a compelling way. New ideas are for philosophers, not artists. Even if movies present new ideas and change my life, doesn’t make them good. Ben Stiller’s “Reality Bites” changed my life, and helped me define who I am as a person. It’s maybe one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

  • MaryAnn

    The car crash scene needed to go as well. Yeah, I get it, it shows the Randomness of Fate. Thaat’s great, but I noticed it during the coin toss (both times!).

    The difference, though — and it’s a major one — is that Chigurh thought himself immune from the vagaries of fate. He was the one dealing out random fate, not someone subject to it. Except, you know, he was, too.

    Likewise, the sheriff’s dream is about HIM coming to the realization that he can no longer do his job. WE may have already realized that, but he didn’t.

    And you know what? Moss’s offscreen death is rather like the resolution of Robbie and Cecelia’s story in *Atonement* — these characters, and the audience, were not the protagonists of their respective stories, but we don’t realize that for a long time, and it’s jarring when we do. I don’t think it’s a bad kind of jarring, but still: it’s a surprise that not everyone listening to a story wants to be subjected to.

  • David

    That’s a big difference? A realization of an obvious truth (life is full of random shit that proves our lives have no plots) by a crazy man? Sure, the randomness of fate is a useful tool in the writer’s arsenal if used carefully, instead of in a barrage that becomes tedious at the expense of sophisticated storytelling. (The human mind is designed, I think, to avoid the simple truth that life is random and that awful things can happen now matter how well laid your plans. So, we tend not to see it until it hits us in a big way. The Coens approach to the subject here just felt monotonous to me, and lacked a charge. Had Chigurh’s accident occurred in such a way the randomness of it was a surprise, maybe. But it wasn’t. When it happened, I thought, “Oh brother.”)

    And the sheriff was talking again and again and again about the realization that he couldn’t do his job. He actually slowly stops doing it. So the dream didn’t add a thing. It was like, “In case you were asleep, here’s the point for the FIFTY MILLIONTH TIME!”

    To me, Moss’ off-screen death was poor storytelling because it was preceded by an intriguing encounter with the woman at the pool, which actually led me to think there might actually be an interesting story that was about to appear, and then … nothing. I didn’t find it jarring. To me, it seemed either lazy or tone-deaf. Or, unexpected for the sake of being unexpected. “Let’s lead the audience to think that Moss actually is going to have a role to play, and then pull the rug out from under those poor bastards who think this is a ‘conventional’ story!” Like that.

    Indeed, the Moss v. Chigurh plot-line seemed like a study in a lazy way of inverting conventions. Moss became a main character because of all the attention paid to him. We knew more about him than just about anyone else, and he certainly had more screen time than the Sheriff (the other character who actually reveals something about himself). Offing him in this offhanded kind of way just screamed “self-important screenwriters pulling an freshman in an Ivy League college” kind of move. Oooh. Look how you invested in this human being and, see, he’s nothing! This isn’t a movie, it’s real life! See?!!

    I kept thinking to myself, “Come on! Tell us something we don’t know! Enlighten us in just one little way!” Sadly, at least to my simple mind, nothing ever materialized.

    I usually never go on and on about one movie, particularly one that I consider to be, in many ways, poor. Yet, the accolades given to this film, as in the case of Crash, make me want to shake my fist at the heavens and say, “Wake up!” I don’t mean to be insulting or demeaning to those who like it; I just feel so strongly that it didn’t warrant critical praise that I get a little strident.

  • MBI

    “Come on! Tell us something we don’t know! Enlighten us in just one little way!”

    Again, I point toward my statement that this is an unfair demand upon artists of any kind. Your constant dismissal of this movie’s theme as obvious, simplistic, repetitive, blah di blah, seems to me a complete front. You say that the randomness of life is an obvious truth — it is neither obvious (you admit that the human mind consciously avoids this idea) nor necessarily a truth. You say Moss’s car crash was not a surprise — why not? What alerted you to it? Why was it not a surprise when this character, who throughout the movie is depicted as an unstoppable God, turned out to be as subject to the whims of fate as anyone else?

  • I had this really great date with this girl, phenomenal actually. The tension built up throughout the night. Our eyes did most of the talking and we both knew what we wanted from each other…er at least I thought we did. Unfortunately I was left with my Willie pointing toward the moon, definitely wanting more… kind of like this movie. Does that make it a bad date?
    Will it make me think about this girl in the future… perhaps five years from now?

    The fictional date described above is a lot like this movie. Is the movie so profound that you will think about it five years from now? A point that I’m not sure if it has been brought up yet, is that an additional 15 to 30 seconds could perhaps save this film. It ends so abruptly that you actually could think that something was wrong with the film or the DVD. How about leaving the screen black for at least 10 seconds to let you contemplate before you see the Coen names. How about letting it fade to a black? They are incredible filmmakers but this does not stand up to Fargo or A Simple Plan (not by the Coen brothers) — like somebody mentioned earlier. All in all, I still like the film but it leaves you so unsatisfied that you just might forget it in five years — just as you’ll get over the girl that leaves you unsatisfied instead of the girl that fulfills your needs in the end.

    Note: Do you remember that girl in the end that leaves you high and dry? Does she keep driving you crazy wondering what could have been — what the outcome would have, should have been?… Or does she just annoy you to the point where it makes you sick? It’s a very fine line. I think this film walks that frustrating line of life that is maybe so true that it drives you crazy… whether that be good or bad is up to the individual to decide.

    There are some great posts here from both sides. It just happens to be one of those types of films. Have a great day/night.

  • pda

    i read this site pretty regularly and have never felt compelled to comment until now. maryanne, i think your reviews are awesome and i always read knowing that whether i agree with your or not, i’m going to *think* about what i’ve just read, and for that i applaud you. also, the world needs more feminist-minded film reviewers. i’m just saying.

    so i didn’t like the movie because i thought the ending was too abrupt, and the ‘point’ was stale and obvious. bad things happen to good people, or better yet, bad things happen to people.

    i absolutely loved ‘fargo’ so with all the hype for ncfom i couldn’t wait to see it. but, i too was left at the end like, “what? seriously? that’s _it_?” i think this movie was a victim of hype in the worst way. i would’ve liked it more had i just expected a decent cohen brothers film, instead of THE MOST AWESOME MOVIE CREATED IN THE LAST YEAR HOLY CRAP!

    i think chigurh was both victim and vehicle of fate, and he knew it. that’s what makes him so simultaneously appalling and appealing. he’s a sociopath, fully aware of how unsettling his sociopathy is, and he uses it to his advantage, in true sociopathic form. i can’t think of another way to include the word ‘sociopath’ in this paragraph. wait, i just did.

    earlier someone mentioned that those who didn’t like this film would be better entertained by more conventional fare, however i think because this movie at times slipped into the conventional (the scene where chigurh is crossing into the intersection i _knew_ that someone was going to crash into him by the camerawork alone) is what makes it so frustrating.

  • paul collins

    I haven’t really bothered to read many of the other comments here, and most of what I did read seemed to miss the point, for me.
    I’ve probably watched something like 5000 feature films in my life, and this one is one of those rare few that left me walking out of the cinema gushing with awe / admiration / enthusiasm.
    Which is weird, it’s a dark, tense, unpleasant, scary, brutal story, but the way those guys tell it is … well, it’s a masterpiece – and I don’t use that term lightly, I mean it !
    Watching it, I felt like I was more aware of the ‘filmmaking process’ than I have ever been in a (good) film before – every little sound, every little piece of mise en scene, every tiny nuance in the actors performances – they’re all there, to be noticed, they all mean something, they all add something, but at the same time I was totally caught up in the story, in the drama that was unfolding, the tension, the fear, the shock of all these peoples lives suddenly ending so prematurely and violently.

    I suppose No Country For Old Men is what happens when someone just makes a film solely for the purpose (and love) of making that film – without the wank, or the ego, or the moralising, or the manipulation, or the self doubt, or the artiness, or the …

    I say, forget about whether it’s too conventional or not, whether it makes a worthy/acceptible social or philosophical comment or not, what it means, or doesn’t mean, and just watch / experience the film – and maybe, in having that experience, certain questions and/or feelings may arise about the nature of life (and death), and of what’s really valuable in life.

    Maybe this film doesn’t have the answers to these questions – or maybe it does, it just doesn’t wallop you over the head with them like lots of other american filmmakers seem to like doing. But also, maybe asking the questions are more important than knowing the answers.

  • David

    I guess we ought to state our qualifications? The number of films we’ve watched? And then simply gush or criticize without detail?

  • David

    Oh, and I love the dig against “lots of … american filmmakers.” Oh, we americans are generally in need of being walloped, aren’t we? Dumb and uncivilized as we are …

  • joe

    “Maybe this film doesn’t have the answers to these questions – or maybe it does, it just doesn’t wallop you over the head with them like lots of other american filmmakers seem to like doing. But also, maybe asking the questions are more important than knowing the answers.”

    Hey Paul, maybe you high when you wrote this? Or maybe it has deeper meaning, but maybe it doesnt, but maybe it does, or maybe you don’t make any freaking sense? Are you sure your name isnt TODD COLLINS? OR MAYBE you are just a dope??

  • Why was it not a surprise when this character, who throughout the movie is depicted as an unstoppable God, turned out to be as subject to the whims of fate as anyone else?

    Maybe because he’d already been shot by a random bullet and wounded so badly that he had to perform minor surgery on himself to take care of it. Clearly, dealing with random injury was something that Chigurh was used to.

  • Laura F

    Not a random bullet. He was shot by a man he was pursuing. Yeah, he’s used to being injured on the job, but it’s a job that he chooses to do, danger he chooses to face, violence he revels in and lives and loves–so yes, his own blood doesn’t bother him, and neither does his own pain. That injury was the farthest thing from random.

    For me? When he was driving away from killing that woman, I was so infuriated with this character, with his smug little grim reaper ways and his certainty that things would always go as he wished (and certainly they had so far) that was thinking, “Man, I wish he would get T-boned. Like, right now. That would be so sweet.”

    And then he was! It was a gift from the Coen brothers straight to this little movie-going heart, to watch the horrible monster get into a random car accident, and be injured, and bothered, and shaken up.

    This movie affected me deeply. And yeah, I think I might still be thinking about it five years from now.

  • jet

    I just watched No Country a second time and Anton was not behind door in the scene when the sheriff goes back to the motel where Moss was killed. The sheriff kicked opened the door and it flew back and hit the wall. So Anton could’nt have been behind the door. I think Anton being behind the door was a thought that the sheriff had and the Coens had to show Anton behind the door so that you could see that the sheriff was thinking that it was a chance that he could be behind the door. Just go back and watch this scene, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  • David

    I thought he was in the adjacent room.

  • Mikey

    I’d like to offer a word of advice to the many viewers who expressed a dislike of this film- some movies, especially Coen Bros. movies, require multiple viewings to adequately understand the plot, let alone underlying messages or themes that formulate one’s interpretation of the film. I’ve been a Coen Bros. fan for years based on Miller’s Crossing, which took me probably 6-7 viewings to develop an interpretation of, but I simply hated Barton Fink and have only watched it once (though I have the DVD and do plan on still giving it a chance by watching it again). And please remember- art (film) is subject to one’s own interpretation. It is rather silly to get worked up because someone else interprets it differently. I learned at an early age that arguments over religion and politics are generally pointless. So too are arguments over “opinions”.

  • some movies, especially Coen Bros. movies, require multiple viewings to adequately understand the plot, let alone underlying messages or themes that formulate one’s interpretation of the film.

    Mikey,

    Most of us who are complaining about the film aren’t complaining that we don’t understand it. We do understand it. Just fine. In fact, one of my beefs is that this movie is too simplistic and obvious about its themes. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, both Fargo and A Simple Plan explore similar themes to No Country For Old Men, only in a much more complex and adult way.

  • David

    Thanks, Alex.

  • MaryAnn

    I’ll just add, too, that though I love this film, I don’t agree with Mikey’s statement about needing to watch a film multiple times to understand it, at least not in the implication that multiple viewings are required to *enjoy* such a film. While of course it’s true that layers of meaning may unfold upon subsequent viewings, something must be there upon the first viewing that grips the viewer so that he *wants* to come back for another viewing. It’s not fair to suggest, as it seems Mikey is, that “if only you watched the movie four or five times you’d start to like it.”

    I’ve never understood the concept of the “acquired taste” — why on earth would you eat or drink or otherwise consume (even if only in a metaphoric way, as with a movie) something that you don’t like *multiple times* in the hope that eventually it won’t make you gag?

  • Chris

    My take on the movie is a bit different.

    The entire movie was TLJ’s first dream, the one he could barely recall.

    Think about it, everything in the movie was inconceivable and unrealistic.

    A Texas lawman murdered and no Texas sized manhunt? Unlikely.

    Carnage and mayhem and narry any LE except the few that hovered around TLJ? again, highly suspect.

    Thus, IMO, the movie WAS TLJ’s first dream. He dreamed himself and his father (Who was either Chighur or Brolin (not sure, but I suspect Brolin) and could recall the money but not even the events surrounding the money.

    This is what we were privy to and is something we know that he does not.

    The second dream he relates to us at the end and there we have it, we know both this dreams.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s a fascinating suggestion. I’ll have to watch the movie again and see if it works…

  • David

    A dream, eh? That sure lets the filmmakers off the hook. But, even if true, and I saw nothing in the movie that suggests it is or give the audience any reason to believe it is, what does it possibly add to the experience?

  • Nathan

    a dream is an interesting idea, though i didn’t get that impression from either the book or the movie. i would dismiss it out of hand but that one of McCarthy’s other books has a long epilogue in which the he seems to be saying that the world(s) we inhabit are dreams within dreams.

    i’m not sure that the idea of his father “carrying the fire” fits with either Moss or Chighurh — that idea is extended in McCarthy’s next book, The Road, which is being filmed right now and should be out next Fall — but i get the feeling that McCarthy (or the Coens) wouldn’t be too unhappy with the interpretation.

  • Talan

    After seeing this film, and reading the contents of most of the comments on this site, I feel that NCFOM is a great story with few flaws.

    As a number of people have related, I think that the ending (TLJ’s monologue) is a little bit over the top. I don’t think it was necessary because it left far too much up to interpretation and metaphorical nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always like to be spoonfed the meaning of a story, but I felt that the sheriff’s “retirement” was already implied by the title and the story’s turn of events. He was a simple man, not for this world. He refused to followup on events in the story because he wasn’t going to learn anything he didn’t already know. By pulling his gun before entering the hotel room, he was already planning to die or quit. Why did the dream have to be mentioned? Did the sheriff himself understand his own dream?

    In fact, it’s my belief that this whole story is told from the sheriff’s point of view (not a dream). The two other characters, Moss and Chigurh, were a lot like the Sheriff in their lack of emotion and very subdued, except when they encountered another person. These other people were probably interviewed by the sheriff thereby providing some personality for the two men. It was only in their meetings with others that they had any personality at all. All other events could have been determined by investigation of the various sites and deduced by the sheriff. That may have been why the violent scenes were so brutal. They were solely based on what the sheriff believed to have happened. The film may have lacked complexity because it was a story told by a very simple man.

    Back to my first point, I found this to be an enjoyable film with a great plot and just the right amount of Coen touches. The dead dog recurring joke was particularly funny in a deadpan way. I also appreciated the silence and the brilliant cinematography. Much like Fargo, this was a wonderful story with unexpected twists and turns that kept the audience guessing. I hope the Coen brothers continue to make films like this one.

  • Chris

    I thought of the intro monologue as Ed Tom Bell’s thoughts. They provide the context as to why he retired from being a Sheriff.

    The “dream (nightmare?)/movie” then serves to show us Bell’s dream that reinforces to him the reasons he retired.

    He then relates to his wife his two dreams, the one looking backward, and the second foreshadowing his approaching death.

    So, the question was asked “what evidence is there to suggest it was a dream”?

    I offer that almost everything in the movie is evidence it was a dream.

    From Anton Chiguhr’s ability to commit very public murders without anyone remotely on his trail, to Ed Tom Bell’s complete inability to do anything resembling police work (reminds me of the dreams where one tries to run but cannot, or do something and not be able to). Remember, Ed Tom Bell was a very good sheriff who even had a man executed for cold-blooded murder.

    Furthermore, Ed Tom Bell knew a guy who was injured while using a cowgun. This stuck in his sub-conscience and was then included in his dream. Can a cowgun really knock out locks like depicted? I doubt it.

    Yet another clue as to it being a dream lies in the locations Ed Tom Bell is found. Why would he be in El Paso? Isn’t his jurisdiction elsewhere? He’s not a Texas Ranger. And speaking of which, where are all the other Law Enforcement agencies that would have a significant interest in apprehending a
    Cop Killer/Mass Murderer/Drug Dealer. They would be all over the region and as a result the border crossing would be closely monitored and watched.

    Everything about the film, except the final scene, had a surreal dreamlike quality to it.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion. FWIW.

  • David

    To me, it appears that you’ve simply listed parts of the story that are weak or don’t ring true or seemed too serendipitous, and then concluded that it, therefore, means the story might recount a “dream.” This entire line of reasoning appears to be yet another strained attempt to impart depth to the movie. (By the way, a captive-bolt gun packs a wallop. I’ve seen one in action, and don’t doubt for a second that it could punch out a lock.)

  • Chris

    I’ve certainly listed the parts of the story that come easily to mind.

    I did state that I think the whole movie had a surreal dreamlike quality to “me”. I suppose, none of the movie rang true to me. It just seemed “off”. Your own mileage may, and probably does, vary.

    As for an attempt to add depth to the movie…I’ve no idea. I hadn’t intended to do that. I merely wanted to state my opinion. Nothing wrong with that.

    If there is any depth to be discussed, I would offer it’s that of the writer. Ultimately, he holds the answers.

  • Chris

    At one point in the movie, Sheriff Ed Tom discusses a California couple just convicted of murdering their tenants.

    That conviction occurred in 1993. The original arrest of the couple in 1988. The murders didn’t even begin until 1981.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Puente

    Remember..he couldn’t make that stuff up…

  • MaryAnn

    Or maybe he’s not referring to actual events…

  • Brian

    I did not like this movie. I WANTED to like it. In fact, up until the credits rolled, I liked it. It just felt unfinished. Of course, it was not Armageddon-bad, but I guess I just heard too much hype and couldn’t help but be let down.

    I don’t see why wanting resolution is a bad thing. Was Fargo any less of a movie because it didn’t end with Steve B. buring the money in the snow? (What? the pregnant sheriff catches the killer? How Hollywood!) Why not end Raising Arizona right after Nick Cage has the Lone Biker of the Apocolypse dream and let the audience draw their own conclusions as to what happens to the kid?

    This movie was like Saving Private Ryan without the part where they save private Ryan.

    Also, it bothered me that Chiguhr pretty much killed anyone who got in his way or interfered in his mission, yet the movie OPENS with him arrested!! Seems more in line with his character that he would have killed the cop on sight and never be taken into custody.

    Also, I did not realize it was Moss dead in the motel until his wife showed up and cried. Maybe it was the weird camera angle whern they showed his body. I thought “Well, that kinda looks like the shirt he had on, and he has a mustache.” Of course this was 1980 Texas, so a guy in a western-type shirt would not be uncommon. And everyone but the women and Chiguhr had mustaches.

    (BTW, i think the Mexicans in the jeep/pickup who shot at Moss when he returned to the scene at night were the ones who took (recovered?) the drug shipment from the back of the truck)

  • MaryAnn

    This movie was like Saving Private Ryan without the part where they save private Ryan.

    That’s an intriguing comment, because that could have made *Ryan* an even better movie than it already is. Particular with Spielberg’s little cheat at the end, how he made us think it was the Hanks character who was remembering the events of 1944.

  • KC

    A quote from a character in BLOOD MERIDIAN by McCarthy:

    “It matters not what men think of war.” ,said the judge. “War endures. As well, ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade, awaiting the ultimate practitioner.”

    A great insight into McCarthy’s head.

    In NCFOM, McCarthy is exploring cause and effect versus effect and cause, and how our microscopic existence fits in with the big picture… how we fit in with the macroscopic nature of our existence.

  • Ed

    Wow, great insight !

    Since you read the No Country book, is there a passage, about all three characters, drinking from the same Milk at the Trailer ?

  • Tyke

    This is my first visit to this site. My son and I watched NCFOM last night and found it unimpressive but unsettling. There had to be something deeper.
    I enjoy digging deeper when it appears that it was worth it i.e. darker movies such as “Apocolypse Now”, “Deliverance” and “Unforgiven”. These are three powerful films with well rounded characters who exhibit natural human responses and emotions. The main themes are strong and clear.

    To me, the characters in NCFOM seemed rather flat in comparison to the previously mentioned top-notch movies. I began wondering whether it was intentional or just poor acting. Llewelyn Moss was certainly no hero. He ran upon a horrible scene. (I served in VN too, but I know of no vet who could stand by and desert a severely wounded man to die.) If he had a conscience, why wouldn’t he call an ambulance? His main character flaw (necessary for a Shakespearean trajedy) was his greed. You knew when he took the bag of blood-money that he was going to die. Add to it – his uncivil and deceitful attitude to his wife. Yep Moss was doomed.
    Sheriff Ed Tom Bell just seemed worn out. He was more curious about criminal matters than outraged at how savage crimes had become. He made casual observations but didn’t really display a passion to get into the spider web of the murders, and drug crimes. He was a good listener when it came talking to his older comrades. They all agreed that things had just been getting a lot worse. All had seemed to have lost their vigor and “fire in the belly”. I did not find Bell to be a coward but did wonder why he made himself such an easy target while standing in the motel doorway. You’d expect an experienced police officer to enter a room with greater caution. He had his gun drawn so he wasn’t intending to commit suicide. It was as though he was simply willing to accept his fate in confronting evil.
    Anton Chigurh was the most intriguing yet scary character in the film. He reflected a shark like temperament – a smart efficient killer. He totally lacked any humanness. Chigurh generally killed witnesses who could later identify him when involved in a serious crime. However, he displayed a sadistic curiosity with the coin toss to test fate. Those were not necessarily a threat to him. He always intentionally killed threats, competitors, or someone whom he felt had betrayed him. Collateral damage was always acceptable. There is absolutely no compassion shown. He doesn’t say “thanks” to the kid – money is traded for the shirt.
    The secondary theme of “good luck vs bad luck” runs throughout the movie. Chigurh doesn’t show anger at anyone when he gets hit by a car going through a red light. (You don’t even see a driver of the station wagon.) It’s just bad luck. He accepts what befell him and walks off to heal and cause havoc later.
    I get the impression that Sheriff Bell is headin’ down the same dirt road as old apathetic Ellis. That may even be another sub theme – the older you get, the more you don’t care.
    I didn’t find the movie to be all that great. It was also depressing. Who enjoys being depressed? We are are exposed to enough violence and crime in our day to day lives. I like to see justice be done and uplifting plots. Yes, I’m an old fart.

  • David

    Yep, I’m an old fart, too — I’m reminded all too often of just how old 45 really is. Tyke, your post struck a chord. NCFOM depressed me, too. It’s not that I don’t like dark or difficult movies. As I mentioned earlier, I count darker movies among my favorites. It’s just that NCFOM seemed a rather empty exercise in showing just how awful, pointless, and random life can be, in a story littered with unappealing and unsympathetic characters and not a ray of overcoming or redemption. Truth is, that is a very easy story to tell if anyone has the urge to do so. But it’s so obvious, and so easy, that it really isn’t a film worth making, let alone watching, in my opinion. Telling this kind of story in a subtle, artistic way is much more difficult, and, in the end, much more satisfying.

  • Stumped

    Thanks Tyke, I had to write and let you know that your explanation pulls it together for me.

  • Terry McDermott

    First, I appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking review. Decades ago I read a review of “Days of Heaven,” another Texas-based film acclaimed for its cinematography. The review was so lush, vivid and descriptive that I never saw the film for fear of compromising the deep impression the reviewer had made on me.

    After seeing NCFOM and reading your review, I think that it’s time.

    Why? Because I read McCarthy’s book first and was terribly frustrated by it. Yet I watched the movie anyway, knowing full well that the same plot issues that made me grit my teeth over the book would be present in the movie.

    In fact, I was frustrated and a bit disappointed in the film. But I expected that. What I didn’t expect was this sense that, upon first viewing, I had not seen the whole film. I was right. During a subsequent viewing of the film, I felt as if I was seeing it with an extra dimension added. To use an exaggerated biblical analogy, the first look was “through a glass, darkly.” The second revealed much more.

    Is it a masterpiece? I haven’t a clue. Did I enjoy it? For the most part, yes. But it still annoyed me. And frankly, that’s what is so satisfying to me.

    A week after seeing NCFOM. I’m still thinking about it. I’ve asked my son to watch it so I can have a conversation about it. I am involved emotionally and intellectually. There haven’t been many films that I can say that about. Who could ask for more from a cinematic experience?

    For that, I am grateful. Now, on to “Days of Heaven.”

  • Robert

    I just rented this. I didn’t have a problem with some of the things that deviated from the standard formula that seemed to bother some. Leaving things somewhat untidy and unexplained wasn’t the only way it could have been done but I thought it made for an interesting film.

    After following the Moss character so intimately, instead of seeing him have a final showdown with Chigurh, in an unexpected twist we only see the aftermath of his death from Sheriff Bell’s perspective. Not unlike the way a lot of people experience the death of someone they know. You expect to see someone again but suddenly they’re gone. And if I interpreted the scenario correctly he didn’t even die at the hand of Chigurh. Though we do see that he didn’t go down without a fight.

    My problem with Chigurh’s auto accident is that “broadsided at a stoplight” is becoming something of a cliche’, a “gotcha” like a cat jumping out of the darkness in a horror film. My first instinct is that it would have been more effective for him to have been killed. Show Chigurh’s broken, lifeless body half hanging out of the car, slowly pan across his face on the pavement, and then to a quarter nearby a few feet away.

    Then again it’s entirely possible he could have died from infection walking around with a compound fracture. Off to firebomb another pharmacy to get supplies?

    I had two issues with elements of the story. First is Moss going back to bring the guy water. Not just stupid, it just didn’t make sense. He’s walked away with the loot but with or without the money common sense would tell you to stay the hell away from that whole scene. The guy is almost certainly dead already and even if he brings him water might die anyway. And if he’s alive then what? Is he going to transport a murdering drug dealer to the hospital and further involve himself – and probably lose the stash one way or the other? Call in an anonymous tip to the cops from a pay phone or something. Further, if he knew enough to tell his wife he might not come back alive, and he had the presence of mind to think of his license plates being traced, they could be traced if he’s dead too. It makes no sense that he’d put his wife in jeopardy like that, or risk his accidentally found affluence. Of course, they would have hunted him down because of the transponder assuming he didn’t find it, but he didn’t know that at the time.

    The other thing was Wells’ death. He knows that Chigurh plans to kill him, it makes no sense that he would go passively with him to his room. If he’s a bounty hunter he would surely know principles of self-defense. Given the situation, the thing to have done would have been to attack Chigurh right there on the stairs. He was tactically in a perfect position to do so, he had nothing to lose. If they were going to have Chirgurh kill him, it would have been far more plausible to have him get the drop on Wells in some other way.

  • Friendo

    In my opinion, I think most of you missed it. Sheriff Bell is dead soon after he steps over that pool of blood in the final motel scene probably while staring at that coin. If you pay attention it dissolves slowly off of that coin and onto the Sheriff driving on his way to Elysium, purgatory, heaven, the mountain top or whatever you want to call it. Think of a dissolve you have picture A and picture B, the coin being the last thing that disappears when the dissolve is completed and we are onto picture B. Notice the sort of slow motion way Tommy Lee Jones (Ed Tom) steps over the pool its not the footage that slowed down it’s him stepping slowly, it’s a man taking the last step of his life, everything after that point is a dream sequence. This technique was also used in the last soprano’s episode. In the sopranos the entire show is always from Tony Sopranos POV, he is the protagonist, once he opens that door to the diner and sees himself eating at the table, he is toast we never see him get shot like so many of the other characters in the show, but he is dead.
    In NCFOM, Ed Tom is the protagonist; Anton is obviously the antagonist, his named even sounds like the word antagonist. But they are one in the same the Ming and mung the ying and yang, there is a little evil in Ed Tom and therefore must be a little good in Anton, their names do also sound the same Ed Tom and Anton. There are also similarities between Anton an Liwelyn, but Anton never goes back to give anyone water, but Llewellyn does, and that is what gets him killed, that and the fact that he never checks the case. Notice the transponder is hidden in the dollar bills, the last place someone would look with all those hundreds. When Anton and Llewellyn get into there shootout, Llewellyn’s mistake is calling the front desk and waiting for Anton to shut the light in the hall he should of started shooting right away as Anton would. Like the Colonel, Llewellyn is a top notch hunter/tracker with top notch military training. But Llewellyn waits to defend himself instead of being more like Anton. Anton is more resourceful then evil, except when he shoots the bird on that bridge for no reason. For christ’s sake the guy performs his own surgery, like Robert DiNeros character in the movie Ronin, he instructs someone else how to perform surgery on him. Llewellyn goes to México for medical care; Anton is a bad ass samurai. Anton is one of four groups hunting down the money, but he and Colonel Wells don’t get transponders, why is that, because they are top notch trackers and don’t need them. Anton would have found that money even without the transponder as Colonel Wells found Llewellyn. Listen carefully to the words Ed Tom uses in his monologue at the beginning about pushing in all his chips and putting up his soul, your soul is all your chips, and being part of this world, it could be that the whole movie is his explanation to god. Like the movie Jacobs Ladder, Tim Robbins character is dead the entire movie is a dream sequence. But for sure Sheriff Bell is dead the moment he steps over that blood it just isn’t shown to us in the traditional manner, ask yourselves would Anton stand quietly in a room with a man walking a around with a chambered weapon with the hammer back, No!!! As far as where the money is maybe the Mexicans sped off with it, maybe Anton has it, maybe it’s lost. I’ve heard of stories of people doing renovations on buildings and houses and tearing out a wall and finding a ton of cash stuffed inside of it, hidden for years. When Ed Tom is talking to his wife at the table in the end look closely at the pleasant smile she has on her face, talking about his father going ahead and making a fire for him and a dream about losing money. And that his father is younger than he in his dream, maybe some implication that his father a fellow sheriff was killed in the line of duty. Listen to the words with his uncle about “things have always been this way; and it aint all waiting on you; and about this country being hard on people; about vanity and about getting a letter from his wife about family news; about while your trying to trying to get things back and mores going out the door; about god never coming into his life and not blaming him.”

    In life we don’t all get the same deal. We are created equal but we don’t live equally and we don’t all learn the same lessons from our experiences, this blog is evidence of that, we all watched this movie and we all didn’t get the same lesson. I just watched it for the third time carefully; when I 1st watched I honestly didn’t think much of it, but then it hit me that at the end like the ending of the Sopranos which I instantly understood that Tony was dead. Once I realized, I agree Laura F this movie really affected me, and I will remember it long after 5 years has passed. I suggest you turn the subtitles on and pay attention and read between the lines. This movie for me is as EPIC as 2001, AI, Apocolypse Now, The God Father or Shawshank Redemption or any of the other Movies that are too deep for the minds of the multitudes of masses in this country that watch too much American Idol. I am going to get the book :)

  • David

    This is really the Emperor’s New Clothes writ large.

    Unbelievable.

  • MaryAnn

    Please explain, David.

  • Drew Ryce

    Robert, it is jarring to identify with a character and then have him do something that you wouldn’t do. While you or I or someone else on this forum might have taken that money bought a first class ticket to Geneva and stuck the cash in a numbered bank account at Credit Suisse, it isn’t in Moss’ nature to do so. He is a country boy and the only thing he can think to do is go home to his wife and trailer. Hell, he never does get more than an hour away from his home ground. He has no clear idea of what he wants to do with the money and never actually gets to use it. Example, Moss needs a vehicle. His thinking only goes so far as who can he borrow one from. The obvious solution (cf The Getaway) is to offer some good ol’ boy a years pay for his truck and silence. Voila, a clean truck with no connection to Moss.

    With this in mind lets address the two plot points that bothered you:

    1. Moss going back to bring the wounded man water was a part of his basic character. If you recall, Moss finds the shoot out scene because he was following the blood trail of a wounded antelope. Following that trail isn’t ‘smart’ in any self centered way. It is desert hot. It can take hours. He doesn’t have any water and he isn’t wearing the best boots for a 15 mile hump in the boonies. The ‘smart’ thing is to leave the animal to his fate and find something else for the dinner pot. But that isn’t Moss’ character. He will not leave a wounded animal to die in agony.
    When Moss goes back to the wounded smuggler he knows that he isn’t doing the ‘smart’ thing. He even says as much. The man was a scout/sniper in VN, he knows the risks. Still he goes. He has to, it’s his basic nature.

    2. Wells not attacking Anton on the stairs.
    Anton is a professional killer with an automatic shotgun. Attacking Anton on the stairs is immediate and certain death.
    Anton is also a certified nut case. Wells knows him and perhaps has worked with him in the past. Going to the room and talking to Anton opens up all sorts of possiblities for Wells. The coin toss deal alone is a 50-50 shot at survival. Obviously, it doesn’t work out for Wells. But we can’t look at his actions in hind sight. On the stairs his decision to try to talk or coin toss his way out of trouble makes sense.

    To Friendo:

    While there is never an objectively correct interpetation to a film I must disagree with your post.
    I believe that you are mistaking Bells metaphoric death for a real death. Yes, Bell dies, in the sense that he gives up on his life as a sheriff. And yes Bell dies, in the sense that he gives up on the idea that he understands and belongs in the post drug world of Texas. But he doesn’t die in the sense of actually being shot to death in the motel.
    If Bell has literally died than the final monolouge loses meaning. Bell dreams that his father is waiting up ahead with a fire for light and warmth. If Bell had died he would have already been with his father in the light. Instead, Bell is shivering in the dark (of his life) with a hope that there is an afterlife of light ahead.

  • Friendo

    Drew, No way , Anton is standing behind that door watching the smoke from the heat of that freshly punched out deadbolt, and doesn’t kill bell… No way

    Bell is dead, and the scene with his “uncle” he is dead, just like the sopranos….

  • Drew Ryce

    Friendo, given your premise, your conclusion is correct. IF Anton is behind the door then Bell is going to die.
    I just don’t accept your premise.
    My take is that Anton is NOT behind the door. When Bell opens the door it swings all the way and hits the wall. No Anton. What we are seeing when we see Anton behind the door is either Bells fear that Anton is there or the Coens getting mystical on us.

    BTW, although I never cite the book as ‘proof’ of a particular film interpetation (the filmaker may after all have changed the ending), I do note that in the book Bell survives and does not confront Anton.
    I seem to recall ‘book’ Anton being in the parking lot while Bell is in the motel room. But it has been awhile and may have it wrong.

  • friendo

    Look at the sixth sense, did you know the entire movie Dr. Malcolm Crowe is dead? Because Crowe doesn’t know didn’t know. The whole movie their are scenes, he has dinner with his wife, and we think that shes just pissed off at him. Dr. Crowe is dead, Tony Soprano is dead and yes Bell is dead. It is just not show to us in a way that is conventional. Doesn’t make it any less true. Look at when he is contimplating opening that door he knows he is making the choice of a lifetime literally. When goes to see his “uncle”, the way it dissolves slowly off that dime. He is on the mountain top.

  • Drew Ryce

    Friendo, we are at the sort of impasse that reasonable people arrive at when dealing with subjective interpetation. Yes, you are correct. Pointing out physical things like the door swinging open to the wall doesn’t “prove” that Anton isn’t there because the filmaker can dip into the metaphysical if he chooses. Nor however will the assertion that the filmaker ‘could’ have switched gears convince me that he did so when, as in this film, there are no ghosts or obvious afterlife ala The Sixth Sense. The Sixth Sense is actually the opposite isn’t it? Death and afterlife is manifest throughout the film and the Willis death, or near death, is at the beginning. The evidence of physical interaction with the world is carefully designed to show, in retrospect, that Willis was a ghost.
    By contrast, death is sudden, ugly and permanent in No Country, e.g. Moss and the pitbull. It’s a place nobody is coming back from.
    I don’t accept that the Coens spent an entire film highlighting Anton as Death The End only to turn him into some sort of a doorway to a new beginning in a near final scene.
    I understand that you reject my analysis, but to me it seems far more consistent with the rest of the film for Bell to be alive and hopeful that there is a hereafter that contains his father to welcome him.

  • Robert

    Sayeth Drew Ryce

    2. Wells not attacking Anton on the stairs.
    Anton is a professional killer with an automatic shotgun. Attacking Anton on the stairs is immediate and certain death.

    I think if you polled those versed in real-world street combat most would disagree.

    Tactically he’s never in a better position than he is on the stairs. He’s in public view, he’s mobile, has both hands free & he has a position on higher ground. He could hit Chigurh a leaping tackle, which would give Chigurh little time to get his weapon raised and fired accurately – every inch Wells gets closer makes it less likely that Chigurh will get off an effective shot – that long gun isn’t a close-quarters weapon. Given the physics of the situation gravity would increase his impact, Chigurh has nowhere to go but fall awkwardly backwards under the weight of the assault. Someone no doubt is going to call the police. All elements undesirable and quite possibly fatal to Chigurh gun or no.

    This was a situation concocted to fit a story not reflect a real-life scenario.

    I insist they remake the movie and fix that scene.

    ;-)

  • Drew Ryce

    Robert, I asked an expert in close combat and he agreed with you:

    “Robert and I were thinking in similar terms. I could hit Moss a leaping tackle, which would give Moss little time to get his weapon raised and fired accurately – every inch I got closer makes it less likely that Moss will get off an effective shot – a water soaked gun isn’t an effective weapon. Given the physics of the situation gravity would increase my impact, Moss has nowhere to go but fall awkwardly backwards under the weight of the assault. – The Pit Bull”

    Anyone wishing to reach The Pit Bull can find him on a real cold and dark trail waiting for Bells’ father to ride by with a light and some kibble.

  • Friendo

    Well drew, that’s ok we don’t agree on the point of the ending, regardless of how the book ends, screen plays are adapaptations.

    But Wells would have no chance on that staircase. Did you guys happen to catch how accurate Anton was with that weapon? The sequence with Liwelyn, right after he finds the transponder in the stack of singles. Anton has a pretty beastly weapon and he is expert with it, you see how many times he shoots the guy Liwelyn gets a ride with, you see how Anton disappears when Liwelyn finally starts doing some shooting. You guys ever perform surgery on yourselves. Guys like Anton have serious amounts of trigger time experience. He Busts into that motel room, kills the three mexicans oh and by the way you may notice that he take the time to turn the light on 1st, lol.
    Any person who thinks they could take on Anton on that staircase, has been playing too much mortal combat on sega genesis. Anyone would be dead anyone, I don’t care If it was Chuck Liddel, or the current UFC champion. Navy seals and Army commandos die all the time from guys much less skilled than Anton. And when Anton is handcuffed in the 1st scene of the movie, he does pretty well without the shotgun, kills that cop with his handcuffed bare hands, I happen to notice he is really enjoying it too. If you believe in god, satan, heaven and hell? Some people would rather reign in hell then serve in heaven. When Wells says to Anton you go to hell, in fact Anton replies “Mmm”

    Ok it was nice chatting with you all goodbye

  • Robert

    Drew Ryce

    Anyone wishing to reach The Pit Bull can find him on a real cold and dark trail waiting for Bells’ father to ride by with a light and some kibble

    Do I detect a bit of facetiousness?

    Friendo

    But Wells would have no chance on that staircase.

    As opposed to sitting passively in a chair having relinquished all of the previous advantages with the gun pointed right at him?

    Did you guys happen to catch how accurate Anton was with that weapon? The sequence with Liwelyn, right after he finds the transponder in the stack of singles. Anton has a pretty beastly weapon and he is expert with it, you see how many times he shoots the guy Liwelyn gets a ride with, you see how Anton disappears when Liwelyn finally starts doing some shooting. You guys ever perform surgery on yourselves. Guys like Anton have serious amounts of trigger time experience. He Busts into that motel room, kills the three mexicans oh and by the way you may notice that he take the time to turn the light on 1st, lol.

    And when Bruce Lee takes out 20 guys who attack him one by one, I should take that as a definitive example as how things would go down in real life?

  • Nathan

    Drew Ryce:

    The dream about his father isn’t about hope for an afterlife; it’s a metaphor for the nature of morality. Good is a tiny flame that must be protected and carried into the darkness of this world. It’s fortuitous that that film adaptation of The Road will be out a year after No Country because it extends this metaphor almost to the point of being a spiritual sequel. The father and son carry on after the world has been mostly destroyed because they “carry the fire.”

  • Drew Ryce

    Robert,

    Yes, I was having a spot of fun with The Pitbull. I certainly hope you took it as humour with no malice intended.
    I’m not sure what to do with your Bruce Lee reference. Bruce Lee seems to me to be an example that supports your position. In a Bruce Lee movie the unarmed hero might well be able to overcome the shotgun weilding professional killer. Other than that, I think the smart money however will always be with the shotgun.

    Nathan

    Very good point and, with regard to The Road, I agree with you fully.
    You suggest that the metaphor in No Country is that the “tiny flame must be protected and carried into the darkness of THIS world”
    If it is THIS world then why is Bells father ahead of him on the road and not WITH him in the dark? Bell is comforted by the thought that, although he is shivering in the dark, someday he will reach his father and the light.
    Making the light a future event seems to support the idea that the light/goodness/morality, etc is something that Bell hopes to arrive at. Not something that he already has in this world and needs to protect.

  • Robert

    Yes, I was having a spot of fun with The Pitbull. I certainly hope you took it as humour with no malice intended.

    *Malice detector on full sensitivity*

    -Scanning-

    Nothing detected.

    ;-)

    I’m not sure what to do with your Bruce Lee reference. Bruce Lee seems to me to be an example that supports your position. In a Bruce Lee movie the unarmed hero might well be able to overcome the shotgun weilding professional killer. Other than that, I think the smart money however will always be with the shotgun.

    The point was it’s a movie. One minute Anton can be an unstoppable killing machine with unerring survival instincts and the next a chowderhead who suddenly doesn’t have any peripheral vision and doesn’t know enough to watch out at intersections regardless of whether he has the light or not. I do and I’m not a hired killer.

    Re: the fight against the shotgun, in a book called “Attack Proof” by former cop John Perkins he tells an anecdote of a self-defense workshop he held. A small but athletic woman is given a prop knife and put at one side of a room. On the other side is a larger man with a prop pistol. The scenario is the woman is told to run across the room and attack the armed man. She launches at the man with the pistol at a dead run. Just before she reaches him she drops to her knees and slides the last few feet on her knees and gets in several (simulated) killing strikes with the knife before he’s able to get the gun out and trained on her.

    Keep in mind he’s got a pistol, which is ostensibly a better weapon for close fighting and he *knew* she was coming. He didn’t however expect her to change her technique and was caught unaware. He further didn’t realize she could get across the room as fast as she did. Each situation is different, speed and surprise can change the equation. Wells might not get away unscathed but I suspect he’d be the victor if he only gets clipped and tackles Anton down the stairs.

    Btw was it established that Wells was unarmed? If he was armed a quick duck around the corner forcing Anton to go blind around the corner trying to find his target while being made a target might be another possibility.

  • joe

    have i mentioned lately how much i hated this movie?

  • Tom Buckner

    Wells: best chance of survival an attack on the stairway? Yes, that’s what I thought, too. A poor chance, but better than he had sitting in his room.

    Bell: dead? No, but I assumed Chigurh had found the money (again in the air shaft) and was watching from the closet. Chigurh didn’t kill everybody he crossed paths with, just most of them.

    And was Bell more or less courageous than any other old cop? Average, I thought. And not more or less wise, either. I thought he’s simply quit trusting his instincts: when he mentioned the cattle gun, then dismissed it as his mind wandering, any other movie cop would have had a Eureka moment. And probalby a lot of real cops. But not Bell. His heart wasn’t in the chase any more and he unconsciously didn’t want to have that Eureka moment.

    As for the ending: there must be 50,000 movies out there where:
    1.) The mystery is solved
    2.) Good prevails
    3.) Evil is punished.
    And the Coens said, You know what? In the real world that doesn’t always happen. And how better to remind the audience than to shoot a Cormac McCarthy story?

    That’s my $.02.

  • Robert

    Per Joe:

    As for the ending: there must be 50,000 movies out there where:
    1.) The mystery is solved
    2.) Good prevails
    3.) Evil is punished.

    Exactly.

    I still think Chirgurh should have died at the traffic light with a quarter lying tails up near his broken body on the pavement.

  • Robert

    Actually I guess that was per Tom Buckner not Joe. I swear it initially showed Joe as the author. Has anyone else noticed authors of messages being shifted on here?

    As for the ending: there must be 50,000 movies out there where:
    1.) The mystery is solved
    2.) Good prevails
    3.) Evil is punished.

  • MaryAnn

    Only I have access to change the content of comments once they’re posted, and I most certainly have not been changing the names of commenters.

  • Robert

    Only I have access to change the content of comments once they’re posted, and I most certainly have not been changing the names of commenters.

    I’ve discovered it’s a quirk that happens when previewing a message – the author/date/time on previously posted entries get shifted down by one when on that preview page. Instead of the correct author’s name being on top of the message as it normally appears between the same demarcation lines, when in preview mode the author names drop below the demarcation line and appear to be attached to the next message down. I knew I wasn’t imagining things. Before I realized this, I’d look at a previous message and go with the author that was shown, which was wrong.

    For example here’s how the last message appears:

    __________________________________________________

    posted by: Robert | December 31, 2008 6:04 PM

    Only I have access to change the content of comments once they’re posted, and I most certainly have not been changing the names of commenters.
    __________________________________________________

    posted by: MaryAnn | January 2, 2009 2:03 PM

    With your name below the last visible demarcation line as I’ve simulated.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s bizarre. I’ll see if I can fix it. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • MaryAnn

    Fixed!

  • Pat

    Was llewelyn’s fiance killed by Chiugar in the house after her mother’s funeral?

  • drew ryce

    Was llewelyn’s fiance killed by Chiugar in the house after her mother’s funeral?

    No, but his widow was.

  • s gentis

    If I had three million dollars, I could hire a cinematographer to make FABULOUS films of me typing away on my computer in my basement….if I had a couple million more I could hire an actor to be REALLY scray and act like he was sneaking up behind me in the films…..there-I have conceived a plot at least as deep as the one exhibited in this film.
    I admit, I haven’t read the “source material” …but ya know what? I’ve read a whole lot of other stuff, and….I’m guessing that the book lacked as much as the movie.

    Go on out there-read a real book! See a real movie…..choose one with an actual plot! You can do this! Concentrate!

  • Hi,
    I don’t think that i am a great critic to comment on this subject. Only I can say that the cast was awesome. Thanks.

  • I must be missing something here. All these people telling me in minute detail how amazingly wonderfully brilliant this movie was. It bored me poo-less and for me was utterly pointless. I DO get and enjoy arty films, and I DO understand the concepts of dark terror and chaotic violence. But this? How am I entertained, challenged, informed, brought to wonderment or rewarded for investing my time in a story? I simply didn’t see the point of spending so much time on a movie going nowhere.

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