Tuesday, January 22, 2008
No Country for Old Men
Bless the IFI. They may like to keep their cinemas incredibly stuffy, and there's no leg room at all if you slump down in the seat low enough to actually rest your head on the back of it, but at least they had a lovely clean print of the film and the place was reasonably quiet. This is, as Ray pointed out, crucial to your enjoyment of this terse, spare, movie.
The plot concerns a man (Josh Brolin) who finds some money in the desert. Other men (Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, some random Mexicans) are looking for the money, so now they are looking for the man who found the money. One of these men (Javier Bardem) is a little more determined than the others, and is also a total psychopath. A chase ensues. Tommy Lee Jones is also there.
The first 4/5ths of the film are basically amazing. The domestic chat between Josh Brolin and his wife, Kelly McDonald, is beautiful; the way he goes about finding the money and dealing with what he's found is so clinical and everyday; everything--the amount of dialogue, the level at which it's spoken, the amount of movement exhibited by each of the characers--is dialled down to the bare minimum: there is a tool for getting this job done, and that tool is sparsity.
The problem is, though, that the film doesn't want to stop there. As Mister M points out, it suffers from the modern movie drawback of having too many endings. He also tells me that the book is the same, so it's not like the Coen brothers arsed it up or anything. The story stops, but the film carries on past it. This would be really annoying, except that Barry Corbin turns up at the very end, and everyone loves him, right?
Apparently the ending has sparked some debate, over what the film is really about, and who the main character is. Is the film centered on Javier Bardem vs. Josh Brolin, and should it therefore end when their story ends? Or is it about Tommy Lee Jones, in which case, should it end with the end of his story?
It's a valid question, and in theory I like the idea of the action-based story being a single event in a larger story, but I'm not sure it really works in practice, because it does just add time to what is already a long and intense evening in the pictures.
Still, it's pleasant to see a film that's worth a little bit of debate. Also, Texas looks wonderfully bleak in it, and I haven't seen anything so beautifully shot since Brokeback Mountain. Solid stuff.