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"Literally" is a big word
The best parts of this movie are those that depict the story of Noah and certain portions of the story of Abraham, particularly the Epiphany sequences surrounding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Covenant sacrifice. John Huston, with a mixture of seriousness and sweet humor, is terrific as Noah, and George C. Scott's Abraham is not only the very best ever put on film, it is one of the very best performances Scott has ever given, a performance that ranks with his other great ones in Patton, Dr. Strangelove and The Hospital.
For those of you who are not learned readers of scripture, "the three angels" are actually an appearance of the Angel of the Lord--in Christian theology, an incorporeal, howbeit, visible visitation of the pre-incarnate Christ. The Angel of the Lord is not a created being, i.e., a mere messenger, but God Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God. These rare appearances in the Old Testament known as the Epiphanies strictly occur within the spiritual realm, for Christ has not yet taken on human flesh. Moses and Abraham are among the very few persons in history to have witnessed them. They are instances whereupon the veil that separates the overlapping spiritual and temporal dimensions is pulled back so that they may be seen by humans. The Burning Bush, for example, is another of these Epiphanies. Huston, a great reader, was familiar with this Christian tradition. In scripture, the Angel of the Lord's appearance to Abraham regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah consists of three beings in human form talking and acting in concert or consists of the Epiphany and two angelic beings at His side. Scripture may be construed either way. Huston mostly went with the former while allowing for the latter. Hence, they are all Peter O'Toole, alternately speaking as one, though the greater attention is given to the specter in the center. Elegant.
Let's get back to that word "literally" and the rhyme behind the reason of my digression will become apparent.
Many great developments have occurred in the fields of science and biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) in the last two centuries especially. Their dramatic revelations for a believer like me are delightful, even thrilling. But for some, both believers and non-believers, they have served to create a great deal of tension that is both unnecessary and tragic. For example, there remains a sincere and well-meaning segment of the orthodox Christian community which staunchly insists that scripture calls for a young-earth creationism, when in fact it does not. This error is compounded by non-believers--mostly ignorant of the biblical text and its theology--who insist that the Bible necessarily calls for a young-earth creationism as well. These are the sort who talk about ancient biblical history as myth or legend--a collection of absurdities supposedly exposed by scientific fact.
Their premise is wrong.
The perceived and ultimately illusory tension between natural history and revelation arises from two problems: (1) the age of the universe and (2) the origins of life. All of the other varies controversies are contingent to these. The eternal, static universe model that was once passionately defended by Darwinists, by the way, for reasons that should be obvious, can no longer be rationally sustained. It is essentially dead. It appears to be the stuff of scientific myth. The finite,expanding universe model, based on the so-called "Big Bang Theory", is perfectly consistent with scripture. Score one for the Bible.
The origins of life, of course, is a much more complex matter. Too many Christians have simply walked off the field of battle. Insisting on a young earth, they fail to realize that the expanding universe model supports their position of a finite creation with a beginning. A beginning requires a beginner--of one sort or another. Also, a finite, expanding universe dramatically shortens the period of time that evolutionists once claimed was required for all of their various mechanisms to produce life as we know it today. Obviously, this hasn't caused evolutionists to abandon their theory, just modify it.
In spite of what so many evolutionists disingenuously claim, the jury is still out, and some of us, who believe that both the general revelation (or natural history) and the special revelation are ultimately consistent, understand precisely the nature of their slight of hand and their motive. We are not hemmed in by any other particular model or mode of interpretation other than the knowledge that God is the author of both the general and special revelations. We are open.
So was Huston. And that's the point. Too many commenting on this board fail to realize that his film, like the Bible, allows for a much broader understanding of both the scientific data and the biblical account--in both is metaphoric and literal senses--than they would allow for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the reasonably established facts in and of themselves.
Too many have already made up theirs minds based on nothing more substantial than faulty premises and foolish prejudices. If this were more generally understood, Huston's film, in spite of its faults, would be more highly regarded.
One major flaw away from being a masterpiece of the genre
If you liked THE BOURNE TRILOGY and the recent Bond film--not QUANTUM OF SOLACE, which sucks, but CASINO ROYALE, which rocks--then you will dig this movie. It promises thrills and chills and drive and action. It delivers.
It contains one serious flaw, however, which will annoy some. But considering that IMDb users gave it an 8/10 rating it is clear that most won't care about the flaw, won't notice it or will simply like the movie so much that they will rationalize the complications it creates away without acknowledging that no rationalization, however imaginative, can make them go away. The remainder of the film and particularly the ending as they stand simply won't support such a huge suspension of belief.
The problem goes to plausibility, logic. And it really bugs me. Usually, such a honker of a problem would spoil the whole film for me. Yet, I still like it. A lot. I give it a 7 out of 10 with the flaw, and an 8 out of 10 without it . . . that is to say, removing it would subtract nothing from the story, and that's what's really weird about it not being removed before the movie was released.
Removing the flaw and the sequences attached to it would have required shooting two or three other sequences in their place, but this wouldn't have injured the rest of the film at all, no other changes would have been required. Just a swap. The rest is fine.
Hence, the problem is just as glaringly obvious as its solution is simple.
How the screen writer and the director could miss it and still be capable of producing an otherwise brilliant and riveting action flick is mysterious. Even assuming that the screen writer and director are idiot savants or brilliant drug addicts, how did the film editor miss it? Oh, well. There it is. A really good action movie just the same.
The only thing that really makes any sense, as the rest of the film cannot be a brilliant accident, is that the filmmakers started out with one idea, realized it didn't add up in the editing room after the last take and after the players were released. That sometimes happens. So you throw up a few sets, recall the pertinent players and fix it. Budget? Other commitments? Who knows.
For those who haven't seen it, I won't divulge anymore about the film except to say that the problem involves the inclusion of a certain, utterly unnecessary character--the French internal security agent. Cut him out, and all of the complications stuffed inside his baggage disappear.
But check it out. It's well worth the aggravation. It's a great ride, a thrilling popcorn flick with a vengeance.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
No. I ain't gonna call it
The key to getting at the meaning of this story is understanding that the film is essentially a classic western set in 1980. And what a western it is, one of the finest, as well as one of the finest films of any genre put up on the screen. A classic, a future AFI's 100 greatest.
While hunting somewhere in Southwest Texas near the border, Llewlyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad and over two million dollars in cash. Everyone's dead or as good as. A dying man asks Moss for water, but Moss doesn't have any water. He discerns that there's a load of cash somewhere and inquires about the last man standing. He finds him a few hundred yards away, shot up and dead. He takes the satchel of cash and determines to keep it to make a better life for his wife Carla Jean and himself. As the story progresses we see that the two love each other a great deal. Moss--a Vietnam veteran, a rough and ready man--is gentle with Carla Jean, a sweet, loving, obedient sort who trusts Moss and admires his courage and his sense of right. Hence, the hero and the virtuous heroine.
We later learn that a businessman in Houston or Dallas (it doesn't matter) is behind the buy, the owner of the money. He hires Chigurh--a cold, pitiless psychopathic killer--to track the money down, but he doesn't know Chigurh, has no idea what he's hired. Chigurh turns on the businessman's agents, coolly shoots them both dead after getting his hands on the receiver linked to a transponder hidden among the bills in the satchel that Moss is still unwittingly carrying along with the cash. Chigurh aims to find and keep the money for himself. Hence, the classic western villain, but also an archetype of evil. But not just any evil. Bardem's character personifies the human Evil that so often seems to prevail in the world.
We have Woody Harrelson's character Carson Wells, a sympathetic bounty hunter and apparently a spook during the war, also hired by the businessman to deal with Chigurh, find Moss and retrieve the money. (The Coens imply that Chigurh was some kind of operative himself during the war; perhaps that's how Wells, who compares Chigurh to the bubonic plague, knows of him.) Wells has no intention of harming Moss, just do the job he was hired to do and kill Chigurh, which Wells already knows is necessary. Wells is not a cruel man. In addition to Wells and unknown to him, the businessman has hired two independent teams of Mexican gunmen, a matter of increasing the odds.
Sheriff Bell, Tommy Lee Jones' character, surmises that Moss, a man he knows and likes, has got the drug money and is on the run from Chigurh, whom he wants to stop, but increasingly feels that he's simply outmatched by Chigurh's sheer relentlessness as he contemplates the maniac's trail of mayhem. Jones' character is the personification of Despair.
And finally, surprisingly, Kelly Macdonald's character Carla Jean is the personification of resolute Courage in the face of Evil.
This is a dark film, mostly conveying a sense of hopelessness. The locations and set designs are intended to be as stark and as barren, as the film's thematic terrain. The Coens did not make a stylized shoot 'em up. I suspect from their work in this film and from that of previous films that the brothers frown on that sort of sensationalism. I'm with them on that one.
The Coens typically go for a slightly warped realism, filled with quirky characters and ironic dialogue. This is a western; these are men of few words. But when they do speak in this film, the dialogue and the delivering are brilliant. Nevertheless, being a Coen film, the dialogue is much more extensive than your typical western. As "cowboys" go, these could be rather talkative and eloquent while still conveying the tight-lipped, square-chin aurora. That's some magic the Coens wielded there.
Sheriff Bell's despair is heartbreakingly conveyed by Jones. This tough, brave character, one which absolutely believes in protecting and serving, a sincere throwback, has a tender heart. And as it turns out, too tender in its dotage to stand up anymore. Hence, the title, "No Country for Old Men".
Moving onto the last movement of the film. . . .
But Moss is not too old. Tough and ready, he lets Chigurh know that he's not about to fold.
"I'm going to make you my special project."
Hence, Moss comes to realize, now fully cognizant of the danger Bardem's character poses, that he cannot simply evade this madmen, he must turn the tables and hunt him down. And, apparently, since he's the only man who has ever faced Chigurh, once already, even wounding him, and is still alive to talk about it, we believe he can and will defeat him.
Finally, Bardem's perfectly controlled performance is pure, understated menace, palpable, riveting--the merciless evil of a character utterly unaware of his own banality. His is one of the finest screen performances ever.