No Country For Old Men

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Year: 2007

Writer: Joel & Ethan Coen (screenplay), Cormac McCarthy (novel)

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen

Budget: ?

Gross: $1 706 000 (as of november 16th)

a little while back i talked about the most recent film from david croenenberg, Eastern Promises and called it possibly the best film i have seen so far this year (at least i think i said that in the discussion on the blog or in the podcast.  if not, then i know i at least mentioned it to family and friends when i told them about it).  well, as good as that film was, the honor of best film i have seen so far this year has now been passed on to the new film from the coen brothers, No Country For Old Men.

i should admit up front that i am a huge fan of the coen brothers.  Although i haven't seen all of their films, i have seen most of them, and there is not one that i would say i didn't like.  sure Ladykillers wasn't great, but i didn't hate it.  it is kind of like older woody allen for me.  although he has been pretty hit and miss over the last 10 years or so (maybe even more miss), up until 1997 and Deconstructing Harry, which i really liked, i had seen about 22 of his films with barely a miss among them.

so, while i might be a little biased when it comes to the brothers coen, this high anticipation can also lead very easily to disappointment if it doesn't meet my pre-movie excitement.  needless to say No Country For Old Men met and far exceeded it.

this is just a brilliant piece of film making.  these guys are so good at their craft and they make it all feel so effortless in their style of filming and of storytelling, which in the case of this film is a very important factor.

a quick little plot synopsis before we go on: in 1980 a hunter near the rio grande stumbles across dead bodies from a drug deal gone bad.  he also finds $2 million in cash which he takes, therefor causing him to be pursued by a killer sent to track him down.... sounds pretty typical doesn't it?  well it isn't and thats what makes this film so amazing.

the coen brothers aren't known for following typical hollywood conventions and that holds very true in No Country For Old Men.  rather then making your typical guy-finds-money-gets-hunted-by-killer film that we can all pretty much play out in our head with very little effort, the coen brothers take a different approach to the subject.

they take their time with it.  they don't rush the action or force the tension on us with fast cuts or a manipulative score.  rather they let it build and build so that the tension and anxiety you feel during certain scenes is completely justified.  i noticed it right away with one of the first scenes when the hunter (played really well by josh brolin by the way) finds the money.  the scene begins with him hunting then walking through the open lands then coming across the bloody scene and then finding the money. 

this whole episode is probably about 5-10 minutes longer then it would be if many other directors were making this movie.  but the coen brothers are in no rush to get there and they trust the audience to stay with them even if it is a little slow and not every moment is 100% necessary to move the plot along. 

i can think of at least one other scene that fits that bill.  it is a short scene and it could have been edited out without anyone noticing or effecting the story in any way, and i'm sure a lesser director would have been pressured by the studio to cut it and shave a few minutes of the running time, but it also felt completely coherent being in the movie, and went even farther in proving the coen brothers mastery of their craft and complete faith in doing things the way they want to do it.

following on that theme of the brothers doing things the way they want to and not just following convention: there are a couple huge moments where things happen to characters that i can't imagine many other filmmakers getting away with, or even trying for that matter.  its not so much that characters will come and go or that a person that we, the audience, will have invested time in will leave.  it is more the fact that they will leave without any fanfare and the big scene that would normally be their 'farewell' is a mere afterthought with the coen's only showing us the aftermath rather then the event itself - i know i am being very vague, but, first of all, i don't like giving stuff away (which so many peole annoyingly do when they write about a movie) and more importantly the actual 'thing and person' i am talking about isn't as important to the discussion as is the idea of how it plays within the film and stands out as a real important decision by the film makers.

No Country For Old Men is still in limited release at this point and so i can't say how successful it will be financially once it goes wide.  however, i am doing my part here on Filmed But Not Forgotten to get the word out and hopefully make this a movie that people remember to go see and therefor one that actually doesn't belong on the site.