Thursday, December 13, 2007

A great flick (I'm just not sure why)

What to say about "No Country for Old Men," the new Coen Brothers (Ethan and Joel) film based on former Knoxville resident Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel?

This is a good film, powerful even. I found myself fascinated by these characters, engrossed in this bleak, incredibly violent, fatalistic tale of a drug deal gone horribly wrong.

But I also left the theater scratching my head. All I can say is, if you go see this movie, pay attention -- to everything.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is hunting antelope in the New Mexico desert when he stumbles into a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Dead bodies pepper the ground. Moss finds the drugs, and oops, the $2 million too.

He decides to take the money and run, as it were, which means he becomes the favorite target of killer Chigurh (Javier Bardem), one bad SOB who carries around an oxygen tank and a stun gun. Moss sends his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) to her mother's and spends the rest of the movie on the run, desperately trying to make this blood money his. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) picks up on the plot and tries, in his fashion, to protect the Mosses from Chigurh's insanity.

"No Country for Old Men" is one of the most violent films to come along in quite awhile. If that bothers you, go see "The Golden Compass" instead.

What makes this film is the dialogue, sharp and witty, and the performances of the actors. Chances are you've not seen a better acted film this year. Bardem's performance will haunt your dreams.

But if your taste runs toward linear plots with neatly wrapped endings, beware. The Coens capture McCarthy's existentialist mood quite well. There's quite a lot bubbling under the surface of this suspense picture -- ruminations on life, duty, fate and fear.

I'm tempted to write here that because I can't understand all of it means the picture is a failure. But of course that's not true. The best art doesn't reveal itself in neatly prepared packages. Neither does life. You have to work at it, toss it around a little, discuss it with others.

So there it is. If you want to chew on something awhile, "No Country for Old Men" is your movie. If you want to be entertained and just chew on bad popcorn, go see one of the mindless holiday pictures instead. You may be better satisfied, but not nearly as well rewarded.

"No Country for Old Men" is now playing at Regal CinemaArt Downtown West. It is rated R for extreme violence and language.

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