In rural Texas, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss decides to simply take the two million dollars present for himself. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh, on his trail as he dispassionately murders nearly every rival, bystander and even employer in his pursuit of his quarry and the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity as Chigurh closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sherrif Ed Tom Bell blithely oversees the investigation even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
When Anton steps in front of Llewelyn's door in the hotel you see Llewelyn cock the hammer on his gun, Llewelyn's gun is a pump shotgun which doesn't have a hammer. See more »
Ed Tom Bell:
I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five years old. Hard to believe. My grandfather was a lawman; father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up in Plano and me out here. I think he's pretty proud of that. I know I was. Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lotta folks find that hard to believe. Jim Scarborough'd never carried one; that's the younger Jim. Gaston Boykins wouldn't wear one up in Comanche County. I always liked to hear about ...
See more »
I suppose I should say at the outset that this IS a good movie. You should see it. Its all about the writing, though.
McCarthy's writing style comes after the Clancy/Ludlum model where things are diced into parallel episodes but unified in a grand arc driven by the cosmic principle that good triumphs and the bad guys get punished. This has become the cinematic norm, so whenever we pass through a scene-story, we know how it fits in a universe powered by a machine of justice.
McCarthy has the intelligence to open the world, introducing into his novels the notion of apparently unraveled justice. We do have episodes. We do cling to some of the traditional formula: drugs, mob boss, the hunted, the west, the champion of justice. Each of these is used conventionally. Its no accident that Tommy Lee was selected to play the part, because we assume he will be the hunter from Fugitive, the agent who adjusts things to their proper order. Its no accident that all the ordinary pieces of this are made from the same stuff we'd find in airport books and their coincident movies.
But its also no accident that McCarthy's books draw on the cinematic revolution. His images assume that you can see, not imagine. That way he can do two novel things. One is that he can show by not showing, for instance Moss's actual death. This separation between the imagined and the shown also allows him to elevate the imagined into substance. This film, for instance, starts and ends with annotative stories. They aren't directly linked to the action we see, but they have agency, power and they come close enough to being parallel episodes that we accept them as relevant.
The other cinematic notion that McCarthy uses is noir, and I am certain that it is what attracted the Coens. They've spent their entire careers surrounding this notion, probing it from all directions. In absolute terms, what defines noir is the notion that the machinery of the universe is arbitrary and linked to the act of viewing. That "viewing" piece has stickiness, because it involves us in what happens to the characters in the world we witness. McCarthy makes us explicitly complicit in the unraveling of ordinary, even expected justice.
Its all wonderful. Its all perfectly comprehended and presented by the Coens. Its clean. It works. Its poetic and deserves to be near the top of anyone's list. If nothing else, the Coens know how to end a movie, probably the most elusive element of narrative skillcraft.
So why am I unhappy?
Because the Coens play a special role in my film life. They are the folks who play games, who explore, who tease and question. They are the Bob Dylans of film. When they create something it has all sorts of extra annotative froth in it, usually cinematic in nature. Its baroque introspection where they pile twisted ironies on top of dishonest self-reference. They are the master of woven layers, of meandering narrative stance. They break where breaks are needed and not expected. They write their own vision, and clearly have that vision first.
Here, they start with someone else's vision already written. Here they stick to the clean, the bones not the coral. Here they deliver directness. Their ambiguity is direct, not tangled.
Yes, I can celebrate what they've done here. And sure I can say that they did well. But isn't that what we have Ang Lee for? PT Andersen? Sean Penn? When the Coens simply rely on their competence, they steal from us the things that they uniquely can do: confabulate and confuse reality. Now that Woody is all but retired, we need them more than ever, Dude.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
22 of 40 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?