Monday, 28 January 2008

Overhyped and overhere - No Country for Old Men

Some time ago I confessed to finding Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ one of the most over-hyped novels that I had read for some time. Having watched No Country for Old Men on Friday evening, I’m bound to say that the adaptation of a McCarthy novel now becomes one of the most over-hyped films I have seen for a very long time.

The film basically unfolds a great deal of violence centring on 3 men which ensues from a botched drug deal. A Vietnam vet played by Josh Brolin stumbles upon the aftermath of a shoot-out between border drug-smugglers and makes off with a bag full of money. A big man with strange hair and an undecipherable name has been dispatched to recover the money and the final member of the triumvirate is Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff.

The film alludes to a symbiosis between the harsh Texan landscape and violence. It hints at being concerned with fate and compulsion. Ultimately however the film comprises a great deal of extremely stylised, artfully filmed violence, a few wise cracks and offers very little in the way of motivation or characterisation. The Coens simply fail to elevate their bleak material beyond the status of a rather unsettling caper. Tellingly a number of the most grisly murders seemed to greatly amuse the audience I watched the film in. Despite the film’s pretensions the element of titillation was there as surely as in a slasher movie.

Maybe I simply didn’t get this film. Perhaps I missed some profound symbolism, but my instinct is that it contained more style than substance. Javier Bardem’s supposedly masterful portrayal of the ruthless killer seems to me merely to consist of walking around slowly, looking menacing and perpetrating gratuitously gruesome acts. The character is a cartoon, a cardboard cut-out, without a hint of depth or motivation. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has a different take on it.

6 comments:

Kloot said...

Thank god someone feels the same way as me. I expected a review from you on this and was waiting to see what you might have thought of it.

I thought it was visually beautiful, the landscape is amazing, and I was following the film and waiting for some sort of big band where it all came together with one big twist or some point where it all just clicked... but no, for me that didnt happen. Some people were actually laughing at the end of the film in the cinema I visited.

At the end of the film I just couldnt make up my mind what I felt about it.. Maybe another viewing is required. The girlfriend was unimpressed as were a lot of those leaving the cinema, and I suppose I was to.

Completely off topic, but I got a deadly bargain in HMV in Edinburgh last weekend. Ive been getting into Hitchcock movies lately and so I bought a small collection before christmas, but then in Edinburgh I spotted a collection of 15 movies in a boxset, normally priced at £90, reduced to £25... a bargin. Most of the classics are in it, and between this collection and the other collection Ive bought I reckon ive got the best of em.

Check it out
http://www.hmv.co.uk/hmvweb/displayProductDetails.do?ctx=280;-1;-1;-1&sku=418081

Chekov said...

Some of the cinemaography's certainly impressive. There's the Western feel with huge empty landscapes etc. Like you I kept waiting for the dialogue that would give me the point. On a couple of occasions - when the villain speaks to Woody Harrelson and Kelly McDonald, i thought, here we go, all will be explained now - but it just didn't happen.

Anonymous said...

I would tend to agree. I was hoping to like the film more than I did. I agree about style over substance. I found the violence and misanthropy both a bit relentless. Saying that, I would be interested in seeing the film again.
Peter

Anonymous said...

Finally got round to this little gem and just knew that I would enjoy it as much as I did. The Coens' Fargo was outstanding and this is on a par. The film invites you to think in a unique way, it is terrifying and disturbing and, pleasingly, does not conform to usual Hollywood standards when it comes to the ending. The lack of depth in Chigur's character ("strange hair, undecipherable name") is unimportant because the film's main focus for theme development is Sheriff Bell. His character is fascinating, a man who cannot detach himself from the past and who is fighting a losing battle against pure evil, a conflict he cannot come to terms with and ultimately proves too much for him (hence the depressing ending). By the way, just how good was Tommy Lee Jones - a great actor and his performance reminded me of his flawless portrayal of the redneck Prison Guvorner in "Natural Born Killers". Interesting role (and casting) for Woody Harrelson - his father was a Texan freelance contract killer! As mentioned, the cinematography and Texan landscapes are great, provide a dark and sinister atmosphere and a subtle nod to the violence of the Old West.
I can see why it may not be some people's cup of tea but I loved it and believe I will even more so with subsequent viewings such is the ingenuity of the Coen's craft - basically amounts to tangible fear as art. While questionning slightly Bardem's Best Supporting gong, I'd say the film deserved its 4 Oscars for 2007, although I have yet to see "There will be Blood"(Special Edition DVD to be purchased next week)
So do you like "No Country" or not? "Heads or Tails, CALL IT" ;-)

Anonymous said...

Apologies, above post was by Kenny.

pan said...

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