Review of No Country for Old Men
There is nothing wrong with No Country for Old Men!
In terms of directing, editing & writing, this film is as perfect as you get. I will rent the movie when it comes out on DVD. I will dutifully look at the filmmaking techniques, get an education and move on. One day, I will catch it on TV and wonder what the big deal was. I hope I am wrong because I seriously loved the experience, mainly the suspense. But suspense as a genre loses its power after the initial viewing.
Hitchcock’s The Birds was on TV this weekend, following that was Psycho. Two classic suspense films. I couldn’t help wonder why The Birds had no effect on me. None. Part of it was the special effects were several generations behind and it was hard not to laugh at it at times. But other part of it was that film was essentially dead, it was lifeless, kept half-alive by Hitchcock’s skill as a director.
Psycho, on the other hand, still lives. Not nearly as suspenseful but it still remained captivating, especially the first half. In a sense, both Psycho and No Country for Old Men have similar plots: central characters on the run because they have turned to stealing. While Norman Bates is someone we begin to understand, Anton Chigurh is a wall, we are never let to peer into his being. That is why I believe No Country for Old Men will meet the same fate as The Birds. It might be simple-minded to want an understanding of people but it also allows these characters to haunt an audience. What caused the birds to attack in Hitchcock’s is never revealed. It is frustrating, at least for me, to leave a movie without any closure. The point of suspense is that there is something to be had at the end, it is not like other genres where an open ending can push an audience to be socially proactive or to contemplate on what was missing and why that was important.
No Country for Old Man is based on a book by Cormac McCarthy. I have heard the ending differs in the book, I am somewhat intrigued to read it. The film should pick up a couple of Oscars, it is a critical success and for the most part I am in agreement. This is the best Coen Brothers film in a while. Javier Bardem and the rest of the cast are all incredible. However, I would like to also point to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s negative review of the film in the Chicago Reader. The questions he raises weren’t the thoughts that ran through my head while watching the film but maybe it should have been. Rosenbaum:
One reason I tend to dislike movies about psycho killers is that I can’t respond to them with the devotion I feel is expected of me. I’m too distracted by the abundance of these characters on-screen when they rarely appear in real life, and by how popular they seem to become whenever we’re fighting a war. What is it about them that people find so exciting? Reviewing The Silence of the Lambs over 16 years ago, I was troubled by the way the thriller tapped into “irrational, mythical impulses that ultimately seem more theological than psychological,” and how critics who loved it seemed “better equipped to regurgitate the myth than to analyze it.”
I was especially bemused by the ready acceptance of Hannibal Lecter’s supernatural powers—his ability to convince a hostile prisoner in an adjoining cell to swallow his own tongue, for instance, or to know precisely when and where to reach Clarice, the movie’s heroine, on the phone. Anthony Hopkins’s Oscar-winning performance may be stark and commanding, but it wouldn’t have counted for beans if the audience hadn’t already been predisposed to accept this murderer as some sort of divine presence.