No Country for Old Men (2007)

One of my favorite poets is William Butler Yeats and when I heard about this film, I thought of him and one of my favorite poems of all time, Sailing to Byzantium.  The “perne in a gyre” gets me every time. 

I see I’m out of touch just enough to only just now realize how deliberate that connection is–wikipedia covers all bases.

This film definitely reflects a downward spiral, but for my own tastes it fails to live up to the genius of its namesake here. 

I know this film won many awards and grossed a lot of money but the mere presentation of a bizarre, psycho-killer hitman does not a truly awesome film make, in my opinion. 

I felt there were a few deliberate and unnecessary elements to the plot, and there were also other things missing that I think were necessary to the plot.  Only a few are below:

First, why did Llewellyn not just keep going out of town?  Why did he stop at that motel and go through all of that duct-hiding of the suitcase?  It was pointless because then he just kept going anyway.  It seems to me like a cheap attempt by the Coen Brothers to entice the viewer with some suspense. 

And why do the Coen Brothers not show the moments leading up to Llewellyn’s death?  Skip the moving the suitcase from hotel room to hotel room and show us the real stuff that we want to see.

I think Bardem’s character, Chigurh, embodies a personified, modern concept of disembodied violence very well.  I just don’t think the filmmakers did justice to the subject matter (by crafting a truly remarkable plot) in the best way possible.

Bardem’s Oscar is well deserved but I’m just not feeling the film overall in terms of its purported status as a modern cinematic masterpiece.

One thing that strikes me as interesting, however, is Chigurh’s coin-tossing.  This heads-or-tails “choice” that he gives a few of his victims, or potential-victims, is reminiscient of another fan favorite, The Dark Knight. See my own post on this film on my blog.   In The Dark Knight  we have the Joker with his diabolical choice-giving, but we also have Harvey Dent/Two Face with the, I’d say, equally diabolical heads-or-tails (which is really a Janus-like heads-or-heads) toss of the coin.  All three characters give out choices to those around them (their victims sometimes, usually).  And all three characters are perverting the autonomy of those they purport to be “giving a choice” to.  There is no true choice in chance.

It’s the fabricated (or as I referred to it before as contrived) choices that these characters give out that complicate things for those around them.  I appreciate this aspect of the film.

But perhaps I’m just not seeing how it all ties together with the overall plot and the actions of the other characters.  Llewellyn makes deliberate, autonomous choices that get him killed.  Sheriff Bell makes deliberate, autonomous decisions that lead him to the scenes of the crimes.  But what is the cohesive lesson we’re supposed to be getting from this film?  Because it’s obvious to not take a case full of money from a desert-drug-deal-gone-wrong, and then to keep running with the money even after you know you’ve put everyone in danger.

It seems to me that the film was mainly about showing a diabolical killer (Chigurh), a wanna-be bandit (or whatever he is) who gets himself in over his head, and a sheriff who is “too old” to be able to do his job effectively in such a Brave New World.

I feel unfulfilled after watching this film–like I felt about Babel (2006).  Things were connected in that film, but not in a way that was truly thought-provoking.  Things are connected in No Country for Old Men, but I fail to see the point other than presenting a study of a diabolical killing-machine in Chigurh, and an idiot in Llewellyn.

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