No Country for Old Men (2007)

This is less a review and more a fun explanation of why this is my favorite all time film.
This entry contains a timeline SPOILER.
If you don’t want to be spolied, please see film first….

 

For those who know me best, they can tell you without hesitation that No Country for Old Men is my favorite film of all time.  Directed by the Coen Brothers (Joel & Ethan), No Country… came out in 2007 which incidently was overall a GREAT year for cinema.  NCFOM won the Best Picture Oscar and was up against four incredibly good films in the same category (Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton and Atonement).  I mention this because I saw a lot of great films that year and it was as if NCFOM kept the ball rolling nicely.  As I mentioned, I saw a TON of films that year, but I saw No Country for Old Men an alarming 15 times in the theater!!  I guess one could say I was a bit obsessed; in fact, some of you did! But how could I not!?  Everything in this film was quietly spectacular, and is one of the most perfectly executed films from page to screen I have ever seen!

From the foreboding opening narration by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) to the menacing bounty hunter (or whatever he was) Anton Chigurh (Best Supporting Actor, Javier Bardem) to the everyman Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) trying to secure his future with drug money that was not his, this film is rich with character, scenery and story.

Let’s get back to the narration for a moment: Sheriff Bell tells us about himself and his job.  He brings up other Sheriffs who came before him including his father (“…me and him was sherrifs at the same time.”).  He talks about the importance of history and how in order to judge yourself you must first compare yourself to the “ol’timers.”  This narration sets up the entire film, parenthetically laying out the plot for us, but also showing us Ed Tom is a man who has the capacity to be consumed by guilt.

The unflinching performance delivered by Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh is one for the ages!  Patiently making his way to find Moss and the money; always prepared for anything, knowing that the path he takes will lead him to where he needs to go because that is what fate has in store (“CALL IT!”).  He also has a disdain for the weak willed.  He feels humans (and birds apparently) are born of free will and that anything is possible, so when he sees a living thing not forcing its will upon its potential, let’s just say he may want to kill it….

All of this is set to extraordinary cinematography by veteran Roger Deakins, a long time collaborator with the Coen Brothers.  His work on the film offers a bleak subnarrative to the cat and mouse arc, intimating that all the people in this world are in this mess together.

A lot of people share the opinion that No Country… is a wonderfully suspenseful film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and they really enjoyed it…except for the ending.  Now, those people are correct about everything save for the part about the ending.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, let’s just assume they all experienced mental paralysis during the end where Tommy Lee Jones explains the two dreams he had the night before.

I always get a chuckle out of people saying that they hated this ending!  Not to wax rhetorically about it, but if you did not like this ending, what conclusion would you have rather seen?  The opening narration sets up the entire film for the viewer, and Ed Tom’s dreams answer a lot of questions Ed Tom has about himself.  I admit: The first time I saw it, I was not ready for the ending.  I did not pay as much attention to what Ed Tom was saying as I should have, so when the credits started rolling I wanted to run my head in to a wall!  I thought to myself, “Oh no!  What have I done!?”  Now having seen the film 20 times, I can recite the ending out loud, so….

Two days later my best friend Mike (I call him Wheats – long story) was in town from Los Angeles.  Wheats is a big reason I like cinema as much as I do.  He also had already seen NCFOM a week earlier, but due to an unfortunate movie theater bathroom incident, he missed a portion of the film.  We both had unfinished business with this movie that we both had been looking forward to seeing (together) for so so long!

So on a Sunday in early November of 2007, Wheats and I headed to the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan to finally watch this film with focused eyes, determined to soak it all in with ZERO distractions!  Well my friends, I am happy to report this was the very BEST film going experience of my life!  We both paid attention to every second of the film (especially the ending) and this time as I listened to Ed Tom discuss his dreams I realized the importance of what he was saying and it was downright enthralling!  As Wheats and I  exited through the theater doors I felt like I was floating (not walking) and as I looked straight ahead waliking side by side with Mike I said with great confidence, “Wheats, that is the best film I have ever seen in my life…..”

Then I was off and running!  Like I said, I saw the film 13 more times in the theater alone!  Some of those times were normal enough; I would go with family & friends who I thought would like it.  Other times, however, were less normal; I’d buy tickets to other movies playing at the Main Art and fully intended on seeing them, but as I was about to pass the double doors to the theater playing No Country… I found myself compelled to go in and watch it again…so I did!

I think what compelled me to see it so much and so often is that it showed characters who lifted themselves to high places without the fear of consequences.  Javier Bardem’s character certainly displayed this characterisric the most, so I do understand that I am appreciaitng the actions of cinematic murderer, please don’t think I do not.

There are plenty of themes to be discussed about this film and believe me I will do further entries about these themes.  But for now I thought it necessary to simply write about my favorite film of all time and share little anecdotes regarding my obsession for it.

I would love to discuss this with y’all, so please, if there are any questions you have about No Country for Old Men, post them in the comments section and I will address them.

More to come later…FRIENDO!

 

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