Movies 2008 #17 No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men This is a few months late, and no one cares what I think about movies anymore anyway, but… for my money, No Country for Old Men is a deserving Best Picture winner. Considering how I disagree with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about that particular statue, that’s actually saying something.

Beyond that, I have a confession to make. I’ve been trying to write this review for a couple of weeks and I’ve never really gotten a handle on it to the point where I felt comfortable with writing the thing to conclusion. Part of me wants to do a good review of it, since I thought it was excellent cinema, but I just haven’t gained any traction in that enterprise. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so I can rely on that as an excuse, but I’m just sick of looking at this draft, so I’m just bulling through it now.

You’re reading the result.

One thing that struck me about No Country for Old Men was how integral violence was to its DNA. “Serious” American films these days are rarely so reliant on violence, not so No Country for Old Men. It’s reminiscent of the films of people like Ringo Lam and Takashi Miike. Not in the sense of complete depravity, this is not Ichi the Killer or Full Contact, but in the sense of the overall bleakness of the universe portrayed and in the relentless violence used as a prime mover of the plot. Because of that it’s a surprisingly winner of the statue for me. Normally American films like this are ignored in favor of more traditionally “Hollywood” fare. I guess this is just that good and the Coens are that central to the idea of good American cinema that it was able to transcend that handicap.

I shudder to think at the pablum they’ll pay us back with next year.

Not surprisingly for the Coens, this is also a well-written film. The dialog is tight, oftentimes chilling and even in the face of the dark world they inhabit, occasionally funny. This exchange, in particular, struck me as a fine example of gallows humor:

Llewelyn Moss: If I don’t come back, tell mother I love her.
Carla Jean Moss: Your mother’s dead, Llewelyn.
Llewelyn Moss: Well then I’ll tell her myself.


If you’re cool with an old school ode to violence and you haven’t seen this film, by all means check it out as soon as humanly possible. It’s really that good.

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