When it comes right down to it, I'd have to say that the Coen Brothers are my all-time-favorite directors. They make movies exactly the way I wish I could; with a wonderful all-around sense of style, just the right amount of quirky, dark humor; beautiful camera work, the best writing and great performances from every actor, so that no matter how small the character in their films, you always remember them. Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski and Fargo are all near the top of my all time favorites list. Everything else they've done is also top-notch, with the exception of their last two films; The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, both were far below their standards, I was afraid they'd lost it. But when No Country For Old Men was released to phenomenal reviews, I knew they were back.
There is no question that this is one of the top films of the year. If it weren't for a slight stumble towards the end, I'd be ready to call it the year's best. The old west photography by cinematographer Roger Deakins is absolutely gorgeous. Every actor in the film is at the top of their game. A brilliant screenplay, building up the intensity with every scene, until it's almost unbearable; it's broken up occasionally with some pitch-black humor, so much so, that I was the only one laughing at some of the "jokes".
Llewelyn Moss, played perfectly by Josh Brolin, which I had no idea he had in him as an actor, is a typical no-ambitions type of guy, who's been content to float through life. Until he runs across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. Instantly his military training kicks in and he tracks down the injured guy who escaped with a suitcase full of money. He knows somebody is going to come looking for it; so he sends his wife off to her mother's and goes into hiding.
Tommy Lee Jones plays a worn-down Sheriff with old-time values; he's tracking both of them, and can't understand what the world's come too. It's for him, that the film is named. Woody Harrelson shows up in a very cool, little role, as another professional killer who's sent to reign in Anton.
It's getting near the end of the film and I'm deeply involved in the game of cat and mouse between Llewelyn and Anton, it's the most tense filmmaking I've witnessed in a long time. Llewelyn gives Anton more trouble than he's probably ever had to deal with. And just when you think that Llewelyn actually has a chance to survive, the film veers off in a weird, unsatisfying way. Suddenly we're behind on the events and seeing the film from a new perspective. One woman at my screening explained it quite simply, "That ending was stupid!"I wouldn't go that far; I understood everything that happened, and there are some very cool pieces to it, but to be thrown off the track of such a beautiful narrative was unnerving. I really need to see it again, to try understand what the Coen's were doing here. Next time I watch the film I'll be expecting it, and hopefully have a better grasp on why they made this choice. I'll post my thoughts again then.
For now, make sure to see this film, hopefully with some friends who you can discuss the ending with.