Sunday 20 January 2008

No Country For Old Men. A Review.

It is the wont of this blogger to be excessive in his appraisal of certain creative endeavours. And for that tendency I shall never apologise. A good thing too, because without an excessive superlative or two one might struggle to adequately describe No Country for Old Men.

Put simply, the Coen Brothers are back on form with this one. Their quirky and often glib cinematic idiom resonates throughout, yet it is reinforced with a thematic certainty and pathos not seen in a Coen flick in many a year. Since Fargo, to be exact. The gritty prose of McCarthy's novel is the perfect partner for their filmic intelligence.

This one had everything for me. Glorious dialogue, obviously... A collection of pitch perfect performances, at turns gripping and whimsical... A certain narrative unafraid to develop at its own pace, or to treat its audience as creatures of intelligence... Sumptuous cinematography in awe of the harsh beauty of its surroundings... In Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh we witness a behemoth of malevolence, the photo negative of humanity as we like to imagine it... That silenced shotgun.

Sure, this film is often gory. Sure, it is primarily a chase/suspense narrative. Sure, there are many lines lifted directly from the lexicon of Western sheriff simplicity. Yet it is the exactitude of manipulation of every aspect of this movie that makes it such a resounding success. Through their marriage of generic cinematic conventions and McCarthy's thematic concerns, the Coens have produced cinematic poetry. No Country For Old Men is a lament for bygone times, real or imagined. It questions the existence of men of decency and duty. It is also damn entertaining.

Finally, for those plebeian rows on Friday night who questioned the restrained tone of the final act, allow me a brief rebuke. You did not get it because your desire for a wham-bam generic resolution is exactly what the Coens are so keen to critique with this movie. Immediacy and petulance are now deeply ingrained in our society. And with them will always come immorality, incessant and impure. We crave something, therefore we must own it. After all, "you can't stop what's coming." The question put to the audience is how can any man - be he indeed old or young - live in such a twisted milieu?

This is not to say that inside every man there resides a miniature Shigurh, armed and ready to explode. Shigurh is a cinematic psychopath for the ages, yet he is primarily a symbol. This story is a parable folks. Michael Bay doesn't do them.


Ronan Casey said...

Great review old chap. Best film i've seen in a long long time.

John Cav said...

Ronan: I couldn't agree more... About the review that is ;)