After nine years of patience, I finally saw No Country for Old Men last night.
This movie should’ve had everything for me; a crime thriller headlined by Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, a west Texas backdrop, a murderous psychopath, an old-fashioned sheriff, a briefcase full of money and a drug deal gone bad. A recipe for happiness for a guy like me.
Sadly, I was underwhelmed. I don’t get it. The critics love it. Fans love it. Rotten Tomatoes loves it. What’s wrong with me?
It wasn’t a bad movie. I just wasn’t blown away. I didn’t feel that emotional gut punch that I get from really great movies.
When I watched The Godfather, I understood the hype immediately, and that was long before we got to the climactic bloody baptism montage scene. Same goes for The Departed. How can you hate a movie in which the final line isn’t a line at all, but rather, the spit of a silenced gun blowing a guy’s face off while a rat crawls around? I was a bit cooler toward Goodfellas, but understand why it’s considered a great movie.
But No Country for Old Men was just meh for me. I understand the themes of destiny versus chance as symbolized by the fateful coin toss that serves as the killer’s trademark. But I found Chigurh to be underwhelming. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by other fictional villains such as Walter White, Tony Soprano and Lorne Malvo.
Malvo makes me think of Fargo, which is also haled as another crime classic by the Coen brothers. I didn’t care for that one either, though I love the TV series knock-off, which is a wonderful example of the student surpassing the teacher.
Maybe the Coen brothers are the problem, or rather, my problem is with the Coen brothers. Sometimes, the best director or writer in the world just can’t make that emotional connection. Steven Spielberg is that way. Whether it’s Indiana Jones or Jaws or even Saving Private Ryan, I just don’t feel that emotional hook that is required of good storytelling. Private Ryan is wonderful at simulating wartime combat, but as a story, it’s kind of thin.
Anyway, I’m done now. Except to say that I also saw Sicario this weekend. Now there’s a film that does indeed live up to the hype. The first 2/3 of it is a standard story about a naive FBI agent plunged into the dark world of the drug culture along our southern border, but the climax elevates everything that came before it.
I guess one out of two ain’t bad. I wonder if Chigurh would agree.