I am stunned. von Mudra had hooked me up with one of those "see it for free" sites for There Will Be Blood (which I will comment on in "Milkshake" thread), and I was so knocked out to know you could find still-in-release movies I watched it and Old Men within 8 hours of each other. Just finished NCFOM. What a movie. What a book it was taken from. What actors.
Even if this movie were meant to be nothing more than a straight-up crime caper it would be magnificent. A great, if not original plot, reminiscent of the premise of A Simple Plan. There is not too much mystery to it, but it is full of suspense, tension and dread. You cannot stop watching it, even though you know from the first few minutes how it all will end...how it all must end, in such a brutal and unforgiving landscape as the West Texas of 1980.
The characters are absolutely memorable, although not unique, and all fairly recognizable: a strong-minded, hard-scrabble West Texas redneck, who is not about to be bullied or intimidated, nor afraid to take a huge risk that chance offers him in order to escape being ground into dust by life; an oddly principled yet truly sociopathic hitman, as memorable as Hannibal Lecter, who gives new meaning to the term "single-minded"; a third-generation Texas sheriff, who is decent, tough and duty-driven, but despairing of how drugs and drug money and human nature seem to be destroying all sanity in his world.
But it is so much more than just a crime movie. This is due to Cormac McCarthy, the author of the book, and the Coen Brothers, the directors who were wise enough to keep much of McCarthy's book, even its dialogue, intact. I had not remembered the title is from the first line of the first version of the Yeats poem "Sailing To Byzantium". The poem alludes to aging and loss and the eternal changes which we can do nothing to stop. These are main elements of the film, which is richly multi-layered yet at the same time a perfectly seamless whole.
The dialogue is wonderful, and sounds absolutely perfect in the mouths of the actors, with one exception.The acting overall is understated, which gives it a feel of incredible richness and truth. The Coens show us how real people face terrible choices and fates in the kind of country which is so hard that old men fail there. Even the bit roles are perfectly on pitch, capturing the almost witless natural kindness and guilelessness of so many persons in that barren country. Even a throwaway scene, of two old sheriffs sitting in a coffee shop and asking each other what the hell is wrong with people nowadays, is wonderful.
Such a small part is that played by Barry Corbin. He is the character actor everybody recognizes but can't remember the name of. He was Uncle Bud of Urban Cowboy, the retired astronaut in the old tv program Northern Exposure, and the bumbling Arkansas deputy Roscoe Brown in the Lonesome Dove mini-series. Here he is on screen for perhaps 5 minutes, but his performance is so wonderful and true it hurts to watch. It is sublime.
But it is Tommy Lee Jones that is the linchpin of the movie. He has turned in yet another magnificent performance which feels as if it is not a role, but reality itself. He makes it look so natural and authentic that I wonder whether Oscar voters assume he isn't acting at all. If Daniel Day-Lewis had not given such an electrifying performance in There Will Be Blood, I would have given the Best Actor award to Jones for NCFOM. Josh Brolin looks and sounds like a younger Jones (probably intentionally) and gives a solid performance as the kind of Texan who is a welder when he can get work, who lives in a trailer and likes his beer and doesn't bother anyone - but you better by God not cross him, because he won't go down easy.
The counterpoint to Jones is the Spanish-born Javier Bardem. Bardem plays his role as the emotionless Mexican hitman Anton Chigurh, in whispers and barely spoken sentences. The Coens have given Chigurh such a doofus-looking haircut that it is immediately frightening. It frightens because you instinctively know any man who is so obviously threatening and who wears that stupid-looking haircut, must be crazy too - and you'd be right. He is so relentless and deadly that you actually dread seeing him come on screen, because almost every time he does, someone dies a completely needless death.
The only unsatisfying role in the whole ensemble is Woody Harrelson, who is miscast as the counter-hitman who Chigruh's employers, concerned at the number of bodies he is leaving in his wake, send after the Mexican. He tries to be a good ol' boy who is dangerous, confident and fearless enough to take on the killing machine that is Chigurh, but he just doesn't have the gravity to do it. His scenes don't have the energy or tension of almost all the others in the movie. But that is a minor annoyance.
This movie would not have been possible but for McCarthy's wonderful prose. The man understands the people of the American West of the 20th century, whether lawmen or its gas-station owners. He knows how they talk, walk, look...and think. He also understand the nature of the land, its stark and sometimes brutal beauty, and how it breeds people who can be surprisingly gentle and kind, or shockingly and gratuitously cruel...sometimes in the same person. And the Coens capture McCarthy's word-portraits perfectly.
Anyone here could enjoy this movie because, as I said, it's a great crime flick if nothing else. But it is so subtly layered, addressing the issues of aging and loss, even of what seems to be the advancing tide of evil, that it is the equal of any "serious" film I can remember seeing. And it is because of that, that viewers who are a little older, and who have experienced and seen some of what life can do to us, will be able to enjoy the different levels of meaning.
What a rich film this is. A goddam genuine masterpiece.
Hmm, for a work of film to get such a huge jumjum "Seal O' Approval" I must see it.
It took alot of academy awards. Sadly, college has made me poor and going to movies hasn't been at the top of my priorities list.
We actually, agree on something...?
I'm kinda interested in how you came to the conclusion Chigurh was working for the Mexicans though. NCFOM spoiler
JohnWalker;4240884I'm kinda interested in how you came to the conclusion Chigurh was working for the Mexicans though. NCFOM spoilerSpoiler: ShowHe seems pretty miffed about the Mexicans getting a transponder too
Chigurh was supposed to be Mexican, but I thought he was working for the same guy who hired Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), whoever he was. I felt things were left intentionally confused and tangled about who was who, partly because that was the feeling Sheriff Ed Tom Bell had about the case in particular and the world in general.
Interesting side note: Woody Harrelson's father was a real, live, no-shit hit man. He worked mostly freelance, but did more than one hit IIRC, for the Jimmy Chagra drug ring out of south Texas. Chagra hired Daddy Harrelson to kill a federal judge - let me repeat that - a federal judge, in the early 1980s. He was convicted and died in prison.
Sort of sheds some light on the rage against authority which Woody has hung on to about 20 years after most adolescents mature out of it.
From what I can tell he worked for the man in the skyscraper, but got pretty pissed at his employers for what he saw as violations of the code of conduct, and kept going after Lewelyn outta principle.
Is this movie about JumJum? xD? *runs*
I didn't make it!
I want to watch it even if his "Entry method" is not possible. Still looks like a good movie.
Coen Brothers... seriously. Everything is just absolutely right on time, no, I have yet to see NCFOM, but I know we're in for a ride. Especially casting/dialogue. William H Macy in Fargo deserves a best actor of all time award if there ever was one... but then you start remembering all the others... Jeff Bridges' Dude and his buddy John Goodman/ Jesus The female cop in Fargo and Macy's dad. Seriously, I get chills watching him fall apart from the contempt of his father-in-law... damn man, I can go on.
NCOL on Blu-ray. My house, tonight! Bring Beer.