Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'No Country for Old Men'

I was recently sobered by watching the very well produced No Country for Old Men. The movie is very trim, no wasted setup scenes, no replays and very controlled cinematography. A gnarly ex-cop says to Tommy Lee Jone's character that "this country is hard on people." It's true both the landscape and it's inhabitants are unforgiving and unsentimental. Yet there was also something beautiful in the washed out desertscapes and laconic demeanour's of the characters.

Sadly at the film's violent core was a message of meaninglessness. The villain lives undefeated, resourceful to the end. Tommy Lee Jones plays one of the two protagonists, a nearly retired sheriff who is searching for meaning. He reads the papers in astonishment at the horror people inflict on each other and tries to make sense of the crimes he investigates. At the beginning of the movie it's his voice narrating and so therefore he provides us with a sort of commentary, a way of making sense of the story. The other protagonist finds two million dollars at the site of a gang shoot out in the middle of the desert, keeps it and is pursued relentlessly by the villain. At the end of the film Tommy Lee Jone's character narrates a dream he had of his father riding past him in the snow, carrying a horn of fire. His father simply rides past, leaving him and us with nothing, no moral framework to make sense of the movie's events.

It's interesting to compare No Country for Old Men with the similar film; A Simple Plan, which also about the unexpected discovery of a large amount of money. However, A Simple Plan while also a depressing film in many ways, has a clear moral, about the value of honesty and the dark complexity of cover-ups. I guess there are places for both types of movies, ones which have a clear moral and ones that reveal the moral bankruptcy of the modern secular worldview.


The Borg said...

Good thoughts, Lukie. I was very frustrated after watching NCFOM. Which is possibly the reaction they were after.

You're right, it's a good reflection of the meaninglessness of the modern secular worldview, but after you've digested that - what is left to reflect on about the film?? That's the problem with this kind of film (American Beauty included).

Luke said...

Thanks for the comment Borg,

I agree about American Beauty, depressing movie to show how shallow, horny and depressing Western culture can be, we can see that by looking around!

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Sounds like a Henning Mankell world.

Intellectual Tortoise said...


Interesting post. I managed to pick this movie (only because it won an oscar) for a movie night. Initially I thought it wasn't that good (too violent etc), but feel I should watch it again. The part that struck me was the all controlling villian who would dish out death on the flip of a coin. He controlled everything up to the point someone ran that red light. From a Christian perspective I took this to show something bigger is at play and we are not in as much control as we sometimes like to think.

Luke said...

Hi thinking tortoise,

That's an intersting point, I like it, but the villian does survive the crash in his usual resourceful manner.

Intellectual Tortoise said...

Hi Luke,

Intellectual Tortoise refers to my thinking (lack of) and the speed with which I think. It comes from the U2 song "All because of you", where Bono compares himself (IT to Gods bullet train). It has possibly the best rock/pop lyric "All because of you.... I AM". I need a nom de plume as I have embarrassed myself once too often in responding to blogs!!

Back to NCFOM, like I said I need to re-watch it, but after the car accident he pays the kids for the shirt. Earlier in the movie someone else had to pay for a shirt for a similar reason (ie injury, I think its the guy who found the money) I'm not sure what the connection is but I think there is one and it relates to lack of control/desperation. I realize its not a christian movie and I shouldn't read christian values into it, but if I can find a hook in secular stuff it might later come in handy when talking to people.

The villian although in control does play a game of chance on whether the people live or die and thus tries to absolve himself of guilt (it was the coins fault you're going to die).

Other areas of reflection could be greed, what would I be willing to die (or kill) for (I'd like to think it would be for more than 2 million dollars)

I can't remember alot of the movie especially the ending. (See reason for nom de plume). I might get it out this weekend again.