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No Country for Old Men (2007) [Nov. 28th, 2007|03:30 am]
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[Current Location |Detroit, MI, USA]

I walked up to the cashier, asking for a ticket to "Old Country for Old Men."

Thankfully, the clerk understood which film this upright ape wanted to see.

I left with the innate ability to never forget the name of the film.

This film is an instant classic.

I will give you some hints.

The story centers around Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).

However . . .

The main story of the film is about Anton.

Anton's not asking for license and registration.

The film deals and plays with the ideas of fate and chance.

This film already sits near the top of the Top 250 on IMDB. This is not a case of morons as film critics.

Okay, here's the part you really shouldn't read if you absolutely plan on seeing this film. It is noted as such. If you're the kind that absolutely hates spoilers, you've been warned. Avert your eyes.


Where do I begin? I'm still trying to remember all of it.

My buddy Jim noticed a gem for the time of this film. It's set in 1980.

When Anton and the Gas Station Proprietor (Gene Jones) exchange words . . . including the oft-seen "Friendo" line . . . he tells him about the quarter, made in 1958, as having travelled "22 years" to get directly to the clerk.

The basic point of attack is when Llewelyn finds the briefcase of money. We know that the rest of the main story will concern this batch of cash, as my friend Jim noted.

The focus of the 2nd act is retrieval of the money. Lew's beset by both parties searching for the money involved in the deal gone bad. The main concern, however, is Anton.

Anton sets out to retrieve this cash, and I feel the 2nd act probably begins around the point where he discover's Lew's VIN. Now he has a focus of who has this money.

Bell's character is concerned with reaching the end of his career. Bell is overwhelmed by the complexity and depravity of his time. His lineage is one of law enforcement - he's very concerned with stories of those enforcers. Many of them end badly. They're either killed or maimed. Bell's character serves as a partial witness to this story. The moments of calm flow around Bell. The end of the film is an abrupt recant of his dream from the previous sleep, to his wife, Loretta (Tess Harper). Bell is one of the few people to make it through the entire story alive.

By the way, Bell survived only because Anton let him survive . . . at the motel room where Lew met his end. Had Bell stumbled upon Anton, he would have become another law enforcement story abruptly ended in death. This is the end of that 2nd act . . . the point where Anton retrieves the money. Bell knew Anton had been there . . . or possibly still was there . . . by the busted lock. That's Anton's hallmark . . . the air gun.

It was the Mexican gang (which you don't really see because they're the standard vicious but less-adept group) that killed Lew. They got to him by chance of divining the information by the unsuspecting Agnes (Beth Grant), who happens to tell The Well Dressed Mexican (Roland Uribe) everything about Lew and his whereabouts while being helped her bags by a 'kind' stranger.

We assume Agnes died from "the cancer" . . . that was set off in a previous scenes when Agnes and her daughter, Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald) were en route to meet Lew.

This film focuses and plays with the ideas of fate and chance.

It was chance that returned Lew to the scene of the deal gone wrong . . . he felt odd compassion for the near-dead gangster in the truck. When Lew returned with the jug of water, that was his undoing.

My friend Jim believes that fate of death found Lew by mere discovery of the crime scene. Had he never opened the door and found the near-dead gangster, there would have been zero witnesses to who Lew was. I believe the more concrete part of Lew's fate was cemented in his return to the scene. Once they had his VIN, it was much easier to track him.

Anton's character will rank near the top of the all-time badasses in film.

Anton was consumed in the accounting of all the people involved in the deal gone wrong.

He was pretty crazy for his level of focus, but the man was a pure cold accountant. He only killed those that absolutely needed to die in some way or another. Very few who noticed Anton a little too closely were spared life. The Station Proprietor was one of the few.

There were members of the Mexican gang who got in Anton's way, such as those who were at the first motel where Lew briefly stayed (in Del Rio).

Anyone care to theorize if the portly trailer park Desert Aire Manager (Kathy Lamkin) was going to die? I believe she would have. We see that the attendant of the second hotel died (the place with the cat drinking the milk). I believe she was saved by the flush of a toilet.

The Kids (Josh Blaylock, Caleb Jones) obviously did not die, but Anton actually paid them to keep their mouths shut about his presence.

Carla died. This was apparent when Anton walked out of her house, checking his shoes. Perhaps if she played the coin flip game, she would have lived? She actually argued this chance out of Anton. Then, she refused to play. Apparently the odds are stacked against those who get the game. Refusal or incorrect choice apparently receives the outcome of their murder.

The Man Who Hires Wells (Stephen Root) died because Anton traced him from the credit card he probably retrieved from the corpse of Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson). I also assume the Nervous Accountant (Trent Moore), who was present at Man's death, to also be killed by Anton.

Basically, a lot of people died in Anton's quest to retrieve the money.

I was thrown off by Lew's family. It was not until the credits rolled that I realized the main character of the three men was Anton.

The 3rd act serves as a kind of other story. It's basically used by many to tie up loose ends. In this case, Bell's retirement and Anton's confrontation with Carla would roughly consist of that 3rd act.

I can't remember, but I believe the fake stack of 100s was the only stack of its kind, which was the only way Lew would have found the tracking device, once he realized Anton was way too adept at finding him.

I can't really remember a soundtrack to this film. The majority of the film has no musical accompaniment. I believe this to be a master's stroke. The absolute lack of music seems to propel the suspense to frightening heights. From the opening scenes with Anton and the Strangled Deputy (Zach Hopkins), Anton and the Station Proprietor . . . I was carried away with a most tense grip of terror, particularly whenever it was possible that Anton was present. I kept waiting for Anton in every shadow and corner of every scene. Anton was that bad-ass.

I am still fascinated by the overall theme of cause, effect, fate, and chance. It's not a perfect treatment, not bookended nor picture-book, but damn, that's where one can really get carried away.


So, yeah, see this film. I would dare say it's a litmus test of sorts. This, to me, is what any film of any genre should aspire. Feel free to jibba-jabba about it, or whatever.


[User Picture]From: ellie
2007-11-28 05:07 pm (UTC)
First, let me say that Javier Bardem is a fantastic actor. He also stars in Love in the Time of Cholera and I would say is the heart and soul of the movie. I think he could make a cartoon character three dimensional. I had never heard of him before he was announced as the lead, and I was suspicious of them casting a rather unknown actor against Benjamin Bratt. Blew Bennie out of the water.

Second, I've yet to read McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, but if its anything like other novels I've read of his, it's got to be fantastic. If the writers stick close to the storyline and dialogue, they should have penned a classic.

I'm waiting to see the movie until I read the book. And I've got so many books to read...
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2007-11-28 08:09 pm (UTC)

Mr. B.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher like Anton for advanced algebra.

He was a man with plenty of stories. I remember him opening class with plenty of bizarre anecdotes, but time has destroyed most recants. I specifically remember him opening with a story about how lightning traveled through the electrical wiring to zap a man he knew. He was watching television, and the bolt traveled that path to him. In hindsight, he may have actually calculated it, but the possible purpose of such openers was to reinforce the awe or possible fear in those he taught, to bring them in to proper frame of focus. It worked for me.

Mr. B's punishments were far less catastrophic, but he ensured his students would pay attention, be silent, and ultimately, be in line for his alpha nature.

Mr. B had occasional challengers, through smart-aleck games that became identified. Those people almost always were given detention, at least, upon identification, through consequence, and upon further missteps with the teacher. Very few navigated this particular attention without such consequence.

I was a frightened freshman lad, in over my head in some classes. In particular, advanced algebra was slightly over my head. Mr. B's final grade for my work was in the neighborhood of a borderline. He had me down for a B, or a B-minus, so I was in the clear enough to find an exemption from his final exam. Almost the entire class was also in the same boat.

I had never challenged this man, knowingly, until he approached me near the final day of class. It turned out that I had challenged him.

I had missed class in my freshman year enough to invoke a danger of taking his final exam.

Without warning, he explained to me that I was liable to take his exam, if he so chose. Then, he brought out a quarter from his pants pocket, and without further explanation, he flipped it, coin spinning round and round, and he caught the coin and slapped his other palm over the coin.

"Well, Heads, or Tails, Mr. sauce1977?"

I believe I wondered, at that moment, just what he meant, but the gambling man in me blurted, "Tails."

He revealed the coin as showing heads.

I was to take his final exam, along with one other unlucky soul.

It was later in my high school years that this other person who took the exam, this peer of mine, would be in the very same car with me for driver's education. We were on our first day of driving, and this peer managed to unwillingly be involved in a most frightening accident at a busy intersection.

An elderly couple, desperately seeking McDonald's from across the street, merged through a pile of left-turn lane cars and managed to place itself right in the middle of the car's path with no time to stop. We came to a t-bone halt.

We were all okay, and our car was driveable, but I was most frightened as the final person to drive that evening. I remember driving 10 mph under the speed limit, lurching, weaving, panicking at every stop light, and, ultimately, forgetting to apply the brake and instead hitting the gas when I reached my destination of my mother's driveway.

Had the instructor not happened to have her own set of brakes on the passenger side, I would have finished off the car's fate with the junkyard, as it seemed destined to merge with the sturdy brick front porch corner.

Since those days, I have come to realize just how close I am to having witnessed a more merciful set of chance and fate, to date.
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