Wednesday, 12 February 2014

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Tom:
No Country for Old Men, 2007, USA
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem & Josh Brolin


''Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity.''

NOTE: I have never read Cormac McCarthy novel, so the following review refers only to the 'No Country for Old Men' universe the Coen's have created

*The following write-up contains spoilers for 'No Country for Old Men'*

A few nights back, I rewatched 'No Country for Old Men' for the first time in a couple of years. The film was still as brilliant as ever and for the last few days it has consumed my thoughts, I knew I had to watch it again as soon as I could. This viewing I was really trying to take note and pick up on things that I may have missed on previous viewings. This is my rough analysis/review of 'No Country for Old Men' (emphasis on rough because this could be all over the place)

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the central character

Even those who like 'No Country for Old Men' are willing to criticize the film's ending, I think this discontent is misplaced though. I am firmly of the belief that, despite the majority of the focus being placed on Moss and Chigurh, It is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is the film's central character (after all it is called 'No Country for Old Men', right?), thus making the ending a fitting way of closing the story, Bell says the first and the last words of the film. Bell is the films driving force becasue he is used as a vehicle for the film's central theme, the decline of civilization. Bell is a lawman who is very clearly tired and not able to keep up with current crop of criminals. As he states in his opening narration '' I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.'' enter Anton Chigurh a psychotic who truly scares and baffles Bell. As we see Bell and his deputy follow Chigurh's trail in the early parts of the film, we see the sheriff is clearly one step behind Chigurh at all times and the lacks the killer's edge that it takes to catch such a criminal. For a remainder of the film, the Sheriff is usually sitting behind his desk or at a table in the local coffee place and whenever he is offered the chance to investigate further into the crime by visiting the scenes, he declines and finds a way to skip it.  In the end, we see that Bell wasn't able to prevent the demise of Llewelyn Moss. After which we see Bell visit his Uncle Ellis were he finally admits that he feels ''outmatched''. It feels only fitting that the film ends with Bell and his dream. The character actually reminds me a lot of Marge Gunderson from 'Fargo' a dedicated cop who is just at a loss at what society has become.

Llewelyn Moss vs. Anton Chigurh 

In one of the earliest scenes of the film, after Anton murders the police officer and leaves the station, he uses a stolen police car to pull over a innocent citizen. He gets the confused man to step out of the car and tells him to ''Hold still'' as he uses his captive bolt pistol (cattle gun) to shoot a whole through the man's skull. The film then cuts to the cross heirs of Llewelyn Moss' rifle, in which we see he has a deer targeted, Moss then echoes Chigurh's phrase ''hold still'' as he fires off a shot at the unsuspecting deer. With that, we are introduced to the cat and the mouse of our story, one hunting deer, the other hunting people, It's an age old story of good versus evil. Moss (Josh Brolin) is the unconventional hero of this situation, he really isn't all that heroic but  we see that he has a conscience (which makes him one up on Chigurh in the hero department), the good guy on the run from evil. Chigurh (portrayed faultlessly by Javier Bardem) is one of the most convincing and frightening psychopaths cinema has ever seen, he's mere presence make us rout for Moss to overcome him, While the characters are seemingly on different sides of the spectrum, it can be noted that they aren't all that different (i.e the hunting scenes) there is a strong sense of duality between the two aswell as contrast. It seems like the Coen's are making a statement about how the line between hero and villain is becoming blurred.

Who or What is Anton Chigurh?

There is strong speculation as to what Chigurh is, is he the grim reaper or a ghost? I believe that claims can be made for both, but to me it just seems like he is a psychopathic killer that the world around him isn't ready for. His presence strongly compliments the theme of the decline of civilization, he is a killer who is so emotionally dis-attached and calculating, he is articulate and almost mechanical in his actions and execution. Throw in the fact that he's motives are unknown and you have an antagonist that won't soon forget.

The decline of civilization

This is, to me, the main theme of the film. There is so much evidence of this throughout. Even small moments like the gas station attendant where he attempts to make some small talk with Chigurh, only for Anton to reply with ''what business is it of yours?''. 'No Country for Old Men' is definitely a tale of the old world meeting the new one.

Fate

There is an incredibly strong sense of fate in the film, characters playing with their destinies and fate closing in. This is evident in an early scene where Moss spots some blood on the ground and sees an injured dog in the distance, this can be read as a foreshadowing to the pain he is about to be put through. Also the scene at the gas station where Chirguh talks about how the attendant who life has been leading up to this moment, and how the coin has been travelling for 22 years just for this moment.

Did Chigurh kill Carla Jean?

Absolutely! Throughout the film there are several instances of Chigurh going out of his way to avoid messing up his footwear, so the fact that he checks his boots after leaving Carla Jean's mother's house, presumably for blood, is a dead giveaway to the fact that he murdered her.

Was Chigurh in the hotel room? 

This is one of the most interesting and loading questions of the entire film. When we see Sheriff Ed Tom Bell return to the scene of Moss' death, we see that the doorknob has been blown out, by Chigurh's cattle gun, Bell sees a little bit of movement in the reflection of the golden doorknob and we get a shot of what Chirgurh standing behind the door (seemingly) and when Bell opens the door to investigate, there is nothing there. We see that a vent has been unscrewed and a coin is left on the floor (a trademark of Chirgurh), a very mysterious scene, was Chirgurh actually a ghost or a figment of Bell's imagination?

Ok, so this review kind of turned out like an IMDb FAQ page, but this film is so dense in symbolism and themes that it is so hard not get caught up in theories and interpretations.

Oh and the film is an absolute modern masterpiece. The Coen's are two of the very best minds in the history of cinema.

*****

2 comments:

  1. Tom, whilst this isnt quite a review, i think this is one of the most detailed, and elaberate, observational studies of this or any film which could only be done someone as movie smart and cinematicly "in tune" as you. Congradulations!

    i totally agree with everything you have said and you have given men insight into the fil that i had never relised before. the Coen brothers true are wonderful film makers but its thanks to people like you and these kinda posts that we can truely realise how good they are.

    again, sensational post man!! Thank you, and i think you shoud post more info pages like this.

    OLI

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  2. Aw man! You're the best! the positive feedback means a lot bro!

    They're truly awesome filmmakers, so versatile as well. It's hard to believe that the same guys who gave us The Dude also brought Anton Chigurh to the screen, it's crazy!

    Thanks a ton, man! I'll try to do some more in the future!

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