{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Monday, October 22, 2007

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is a film that belongs to a specific geography - the wide expanses of Texan landscapes. Film starts with few shots arranged as if a montage from the Western films, hues of orange, barren lands bookmarked by mountains, dry and sunny, windy. The montage is supported by a monologue by Tommy Lee Jones (who plays Sheriff Ed Tom Bell), which tells us about the wrong and ruthless times we live in, laced with nostalgia of better old days. In the next scene the film jumps to introduce a cold-blooded murderer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who is on some mindless mission of mayhem. The third scene cuts to Vietnam war Veteran, Llewelyn Moss (an excellent Josh Brolin), who while hunting stumbles upon a place where a gruesome killing has taken place before ("a deal gone bad" as a cop later sums it up). Intrigued by the dead bodies lying (A dead dog lies along with the humans as if to visually say "people died like dogs"). He finds the drugs loaded in a van whose driver is just about to die and nearby finds a bag with money, which he takes home. He, as a man he is, at night realizes to make bigger out of it and goes to the place of shooting again, but this time gets ambushed by Anton Chigurh (who is hired to kill the person who got away with the money). Moss somehow escapes from there, but without respite as he is hounded by psychopath Anton Chigurh everywhere he goes. Ed Tom Bell also starts investigating the case, contacts Moss' wife to get hold of him because he is aware of the lunatic killer Chigurh. Moss, who is a tough one too, like a noir hero (not fully though), gets deeper into the spiral of chase of death.

As the film starts with the barren, lonesome and inhabited Texan plains with an eerie tension of evil lurking from sides, it also suggests a no morality land, a corroded place where violence and chaos are the rules. Anton Chigurh, who kills anybody in his way with shocking dispassion (he doesn’t even seem to enjoy all this), in a shocking way drains all the morality of the situation, suggesting everything is valid, anybody can be killed for nothing (each brutal killing made the shocked audience to burst into laughter which they duly contained in seconds out of embarrassment). The violence in the film firsts shocks you, then you expect it, laugh at it, and finally, it takes some strange existential meaning with chaos, randomness, unpredictability and immorality everywhere and people who expect that things will make some sense in moral framework are invariably disappointed.

Moss on the run to save his life and to get the money, is just a partial noir hero, as the film moves he hands over the baton to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is growing old but trying to solve the case and stop the killing with his own methods which he is fully aware wont work for people like Chigurh. There is a moment later in the film which is reminiscent of the ending of Chinatown. Chigurh is an evil force that defeated the good this time too.

In the film’s final scene, which makes this film oddly meditative and which slowly builds on you, Sheriff has a conversation with his uncle, who is older and more experienced. Sheriff says "Age will flatten a man". For a moment we think, it will flatten Chigurh too and break him to become more human, but for the next moment we realize, it’s just a cycle.


Alok said...

hey that was quite an early bird review! did you go to some sneak preview screening?

anurag said...

ya, there was a free screening for the Gene Siskel Film Club members.