Monday, January 14, 2008

Bark: No Country For Old Men

This weekend I went to a preview of Joel and Ethan Coen's latest film, No Country For Old Men.

In a word, enigmatic. In two words, darkly enigmatic. In three words, darkly, brilliantly enigmatic. And I'm not going to continue with that kind of analysis, because we'd be here all day...

Suffice to say, it's easily their best film since The Big Lebowski, though it's not exactly what you'd call a comedy: it's more in the style of Miller's Crossing or Blood Simple. As always, the cinematography is absolutely exquisite. The opening monologue voice-over is set to the most spectacular shots of wild Texas countryside. It has a desolate beauty that's absolutely extraordinary; you can really see why people would want to live there.

The cast is brilliant, too: with Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Woody Harrelson all giving top-notch performances. It's been ages since I'd see anything with Josh Brolin in it, but he did pretty well. Javier Bardem totally steals the movie, though - which is quite an achievement, considering that's usually Tommy Lee Jones's job. The film is somewhat violent, but in the "good" way - not flash-bang-sexy violence, or violence for the sake of being violent, but ugly, unpleasant, purposeful violence. Not all of it actually happens on camera - you just see the consequences, or it's implied. Bardem's character, Chigurh, is an absolute monster, but as Harrelson's character states, he's consistent and almost has a set of principles or a code of honour, which makes him all the more compelling, despite his total (and also rather casual) disregard for pretty much all human life...

I don't want to say too much, because it would be shame to chuck out spoilers, but the ending will probably take you by surprise, not least with its timing. It's a film that leaves as many questions unanswered as answered, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Though I'm not sure the group sitting behind us in the cinema would agree: "That was horrible." said one. But then she did ask her friends "Who will hold my hand if I get scared?" before the credits, so perhaps she wasn't ever going to like it...

It's a certain DVD purchase for me when it comes out, I think.
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