Monday, November 26, 2007

No Country For Old Men

Disturbing, dark, solemn, and intense, No Country for Old Men is one of the most memorable films I've seen this year. And while I've only read one Cormac McCarthy novel, The Road, I am amazed that the Coen Brothers so perfectly managed to evoke the author's unmistakable voice in their newest film. Predictably, Jenny didn't much care for it. She's no fan of either the directing duo's work or of this kind of film, so bleak it was. That's OK. I enjoyed it enough for the both of us.

Spoiler Alert

The plot of No Country for Old Men is disarmingly simple: a fellow named Llewellyn Moss comes across a satchel full of money after stumbling upon a drug deal gone wrong. Taking the cash, he is pursued by various thugs, most notably a killer named Anton Chigurh. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, recognizing that Moss has stepped out of his league, also tracks the man. For his own reasons, Bell wants to help Moss. Along with the human characters, the film adds the desolate wastescape of southwestern Texas, a land of prickly scrub and dusty towns. No question, the movie is not a "fun" experience; it's no summer blockbuster. But every scene is its own moment of almost perfect acting, pacing, screenwriting, cinematography, and musical score. The movie coils with menace and strikes in brutal and surprising ways, even while managing remarkable pathos and odd humor. And at its conclusion, you might be amazed at how subtly the film's primary message and point of reference shift from character to character, from present to past.

Walking out of our beloved Del Mar Theatre, Jenny and I discussed the various mysteries left hanging in No country for Old Men, wondering about the choice made by the remorseless killer who demanded that Moss's wife determine her fate by a coin toss. He stepped out, wiping his shoe, leaving many observers of the film to conclude that he kills her. To be honest, I'm not sure. Chatting with Jenny as we walked through downtown Santa Cruz, I explained that I prefer to imagine that the fate of Moss's wife may be similar to that of Schrödinger's cat, that we can never really know without going into the house. From this perspective, "fate" remains a sort of choice. An older couple walking a few paces ahead entered our conversation with their own thoughts, and for a few moments we four strangers compared mental notes. I was actually a bit sad when an intersection set our paths apart once more, so much did I enjoy chatting about this relentlessly thought-provoking film.

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