Friday, January 27, 2017

Decade of Best Pictures: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Welcome back to the first DECADE OF BEST PICTURES series of reviews where we will be taking a look at a decade of Best Picture winners over the course of 10 days. In this series we will be looking at the decade of Best Pictures from 2005-2015 in reverse chronological order! This ninth entry will be for the 2007 Best Picture winner NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN!

No Country for Old Men is the Coen Brothers 2007 Best Picture. The film is arguably the best in their esteemed filmography and is an incredibly special nihilistic neo-western. The film centers around a trio of characters in south-western Texas as there is a series of mysterious killings and the discovery of a substantial sum of money. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and Javier Bardem.

I adore this film. It is one of the best films I’ve ever seen and, in my view, is far and away the best Best Picture winner of the past decade. The film really succeeds in looking amazingly beautiful, having outstanding performances across the board, and having a fascinating story told with a unique directorial vision. Before getting into the details of this brilliant film, I need to comment on my interpretation of the story. I deeply believe this film is about Tommy Lee Jones’ character and his view of the world and how it is breaking down. This is somewhat different than the usual expectation because the film most closely follows Josh Brolin’s character and shows Jones’ character the least of the three main figures. It is his story that ties the whole plot together and reveals the deeper meaning in the film however. It is this perspective that makes me love this film.

As mentioned above, the first major positive in this film is the look and cinematography. God of cinematography Roger Deakins (who collaborates frequently with the Coens) shot this film incredibly well. Each frame of this film is a work of art and moment by moment that look of dingy 70s Texas weighs on you as you see the drama of the film unfold. There are so many layers of depth added by the artful shots in this film and it really makes it a dramatically better film (rather than just being an attractive looking one). The high-quality production design in the film coupled with this especially well to make the film look all that much better.

The performances in this film are also impeccable across the board. Brolin and Jones have a very particularity to them and play their characters so keenly and effectively. They both deliver a lot of emotional weight as well as subtlety that makes their characters feel extremely at home in the film. The performance of a lifetime was given by Javier Barden, however. He plays the horrifying Anton Chigurh, who is very much an allusion to death. He is creepy, relentless, and unstoppable. He never loses his cool in this film and has this steady beat that made him stay with me as one of the best villains of all time. He also is in my absolute favorite scene of all time (in a gas station) in this film and it is played perfectly.

The last thing I want to address quickly is the strength of the story. A lot of people critique this story as having no real arc and having a bad ending. I disagree. The key thing to understand, as mentioned is that the film is from Tommy Lee Jones' perspective. From his perspective, he starts in this period of mundanity and, at the end, after seeing all of this terror that Chigurh has caused, he has these dreams that demonstrate his realization that the world has gotten too crazy for normal people. No one can keep up with what is going on and that realization strikes him as we exit the story asking ourselves what we just saw and whether we’re capable of understanding this story or world. This allusion is deeper still because it is something that we confront each day (though often in much different ways). This year I have heard many lament the world we live in and not understanding it which is very much the tone and point I see coming out of No Country for Old Men.

Overall, No Country for Old Men is truly a masterpiece and one the greatest modern westerns ever put to screen. The Coens really knocked it out of the park and put this all together absolutely brilliantly. This film was put through the awards ringer against another one of the greatest films in modern memory, There Will Be Blood. Both are masterpieces and the Academy couldn’t have gone wrong. I think they went the right way with their decision though and there are few films more deserving to be in this distinguished group of Best Pictures as No Country for Old Men.

Ryan’s Score: 10/10

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