Friday, February 1, 2008

What's the most you ever lost on a coin blog?

I went to see No Country for Old Men yesterday and it was really good. I went in to it not knowing much about the plotline, and I'm not sure whether that helped me or not (particularly those rumors that some people weren't such big fans of the ending, thank you Josh Brolin).

The thing that has stuck with me is the pacing and timing of the film. It manages to be unhurried, yet suspensful at the same time. Even when you know that a character is bound to be shot in a scene, the masterful direction keeps the story tense (I think the Coens have a lock on best director). The pacing of the story also works well because No Country for Old Men is not so much a chase film as it is a character study. My feeling is that people going in for an action driven chase film were the ones who disliked the ending. However, the film is not truly about who wins, the good guy or the bad guy, which must necessarily ential a final showdown between good and evil. The film is far more nuanced. It is a meditation on how people cope with evil in the world. I got the same sort of feeling with some restless audience members in the Assassination of Jesse James; they thought they were getting a shoot-em-up western, instead of a character study.

The story is fairly straightforward. Josh Brolin's character, Llewelyn, comes across a drug deal gone bad and finds the money. While taking water to a dying man, he is discovered, and Javier Bardem's ruthless assasin (whose name, we only learn about halfway through the film) is dispatched to kill him. At the same time, Tommy Lee Jones' world weary sherrif, Ed Tom Bell, tried to find Llewelyn and prevent any more deaths.

My one complaint, and I do seem to be alone in this, is that Javier Bardem should in no way have a lock on best supporting actor. Yes, the scene between himself and a gas station attendent is highly memorable. His delivery and timing are impeccable. But I felt that much of his performance was very one note. His character simply doesn't have a lot of range. I much prefered Casey Affleck's take on Robert Ford, a character who evolves over time, and has a much broader range of emotions. Both performances are subtle, but I think Robert Ford is the more difficult and, to me, more memorable. AND not only was the haircut bad, it was distracting. Practically everytime he came on the scene, it pulled me out of the movie because it was so jarring. I can't imagine what make-up was thinking. There was no reason for it.

Speaking of comparisons between No Country and the Assasination, the cinematography in No Country for Old Men, also by Roger Deakins, is equally compelling. Assasination has lots of long, languid shots of the countryside, and old western towns framed like picture postcards. No Country is bleaker and harsher and it complemented the storyline perfectly. I absolutely loved the shot of the antelope running under the oncoming sotrm cloud.

On a western note, Garret Dillahunt, who plays the Sherriff's deputy in the film, looked incredibly familiar to me. Turns out he played Francis Wolcott in Deadwood and Ed Miller in the Assasination. And one final question, what exactly did Tommy Lee Jones see in the key hole? That scene confused me greatly.

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