I remember thinking the the trailer was ok—but that this wasn’t the type of movie I’d be able to watch with Stephanie. And then the reviews started pouring in, and then the Oscar nominations. I think it was this sentence that finally caught my attention:
Over the long weekend Stephanie wanted to do some shopping, so I took the opportunity to take myself out to a movie. I’ve been really curious about There Will Be Blood (a movie I might could get Stephanie to come along for), but the timing wasn’t right, so I decided on No Country.
I have to say, it’s not a bad movie. It’s crazy well-made. If you haven’t seen it and want to, you definitely should. I just didn’t like it. And I want to tell you why. This may well be the only negative review of “No Country for Old Men” that exists. Anywhere.
This is the point where you should stop reading if you want to see the movie.
But thinking back over the movie and plot, there was so much I found hard to suspend my disbelief for. It’s clear that the Coen brothers went to great lengths to make the movie feel real, which just makes the reality-gaps seem even more glaring to me.
Returns with water
Why did Llewelyn Moss go back to bring the critically wounded drug dealer water in the middle of the night!? Not only was it dumb, but I wasn’t convinced he really cared that much—he acted more like a boy whose mom just told him to go feed the dogs. It felt like this was one of those obvious plot moments intended to put him into a compromising situation in order to set horrible things in motion. Which is exactly what it did.
Evades car and dog
So now he’s running away from a car full of people shooting at him in the desert who are inexplicably unable to hit him with bullets or the car. And the sudden changing of the light from pitch black to dawn conveys this sense that they’ve been comically chasing him for a long time. Of course he manages to evade them by swimming across a river, but not until he’s able to shoot the dog they sent after him at exactly the last moment. Last moment as in he had to pull the dog’s teeth out of his shoulder. Yeah right.
So now the hunt is on, Chigurh is called in, hired to track down Moss, and unexpectedly he shoots the suits who’ve hired him. Why? Just ’cause I guess. Seems like a dumb move to me. Hard to believe a hitman with a reputation for killing his employers would get much repeat work.
Moss gets away
Meanwhile Moss is at a hotel with the money, to accomplish what? Who knows. What is he waiting for? What are his plans? He hides the money in a super sneaky way, and then when he gets wind that he might have been discovered, pulls a MacGyver and recovers the money from a room on the opposite side of the hotel through the air vent.
At the very same time, Chigurh discovers the Mexicans camped out waiting for Moss. And blows them all away. And given how silent the film is, with little soundtrack, a lot of emphasis is placed on the sounds—the machine guns, and squeak of the money satchel as Moss retrieves it. It’s clear that Moss hears the gunfire (OMG get out of there!), but it’s unclear whether Chigurh hears the satchel squeaking in the vent. Why not?
And suddenly we skip to Moss in a car he’s riding in after hitchhiking. But remember, Chigurh knows two things, the money was nearby just before he killed the Mexicans (because of the beeping proximity sensor) and then it wasn’t there. Dude, go outside and look for your guy! He’s running down the highway with a briefcase trying to hitch a ride. It seems a little unbelievable that Moss got away.
Town of the deaf
They play the cat and mouse game at yet another hotel (how does Chigurh find him?), which precipitates into a crazy middle of the night downtown car crash/shoot out. Which is where I found it really hard to suspend my disbelief. As much as people have fled depressed downtowns, how is it possible no one was around or heard the car crash or gun fire? I mean really. Same with the machine gun fire at the motel. How is it possible Chigurh got away from that?
Psychopathic hitman killers have to be well-versed in emergency medicine, because they certainly can’t go to a hospital with all manner of bullet wounds, right? So we get to watch Chigurh patch himself up with medicine pilfered from a pharmacy after he blows up a car outside.
Woody? You’re kidding me
At some point Woody Harrelson gets called in, trying ever so hard to play it straight, acting badass, like his sanity makes him even more cold-blooded than Chigurh, but he comes off just seeming goofy. And it doesn’t get him anywhere because Chigurh kills him almost instantly. Did he even have a point?
Did I miss a scene?
Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is in El Paso in broad daylight, ostensibly there to help Moss, and he hears machine gun fire, sees a car swerve into the busy road in front of him as two guys jump into the car and speed off. Given their high profile, one assumes they’d be easily apprehended, $2 million and all. The sheriff pulls into the motel they emerged from to find the motel all shot up and a few people dead, one face down in the parking lot. But we don’t see who. In fact WE NEVER SEE WHO! One figures this is that whole movie setup switcheroo (for the final 10 minutes of the film) where we think Moss is dead but he really isn’t, but no, it seems that he’s really dead. We just never see him dead. I started to wonder whether some scene had been spliced out of the reel, it seemed that abrupt and disjoint.
Don’t show or tell
So now the movie stops being suspenseful, which means it’s almost over. Chigurh comes back for Moss’ wife. Does he kill her? WE DON’T KNOW. All he does is check the bottom of his boots upon emerging from the house. Hmm, checking for blood? Or just as bored as we are?
Car crash ex machina
And then as he’s driving away through a quiet residential neighborhood, nervously checking his mirrors (so that we know something must be coming up) a car smashes into him out of nowhere. Is this deus ex machina justice? Gimme a break. And once again, no one is around, no one hears the crash and comes running, except two boys on bikes, who give him a shirt to use as a sling as he slips away again. It was probably one of the least satisfying, emotionally void movie endings I’ve ever experienced.