Good Movie Review On The Analysis Of “No Country For Old Men” By Ethan And Joel Coen
The name of the film and the narrative of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell that we here during its first minutes say encompass the main subject of the story: deterioration of a modern society, decline of morals which brings new unknown before evil that outmatches old heroes for whom there is no place in this world anymore. The narration about good old times and how everything is changing is a statement of the film, “I don't know what to make of that. I sure don't. The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure.” The main subject is underlined by several themes explored in the film: ever-changing unstable human nature, morality, principles, fate, chance and choice. Three storylines contribute to addressing the main subject of the film: Sheriff, an old school hero with high moral values; Vietnam War Veteran, a victim of the modern society’s deteriorating values that is good inside but his morals are challenged by money lust; and a psychopath, a pure evil that found new modern methods to destroy everything around it. The topics of choice, chance and fate are brought up in the main villain, psychopath Anton Chigurh that comes in a form of deadly fate to everyone he meets. Sometimes, though, he lets a chance to choose the fate of his victim and tosses a coin. Anton, a pure evil, desensitized to human emotions has his own moral principles inomprehensible for others.
While watching the film “No Country For Old Men” by Coen brothers, one might get confused about the genre of the film and its purpose. For once, the film takes place in 1980s Texas and the wide shots of desert and the pray-hunter sequences and shot guns may let a viewer confuse it for a western. But it’s not as simple as it looks at the first sight. Further into the movie we see the elements of film noire: violence, cinematographic technics such as using backlight and silhouettes. And the growing suspense of the film, some scene cuts remind of a thriller.
Narrative. The film starts with an voice-over narration of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell who remembers good old times and basically states the main purpose of the movie and prepares the viewers for what they are going to see later. Other than that there are not many words said in the film. Brothers Coen, known for their sharp short dialogues didn’t betray their style while working on “No Country For Old Men.” The most storytelling is done by visuals, not words. The silence, broken by rare sounds attribute to the overall suspense and give this film the feeling of calm sadness, fatigue and the feeling of unavoidance of change and death, because change is death: old ways die, while new ways are being born. The storyline is sequential and the only flashbacks come in the form of stories told by an old Veteran, Sheriff’s uncle and Sheriff himself. Flashbacks are not supported by visual pictures of past times, only by words.
Acting. The casting for the film is superb from the menacing Javier Bardem, that seems not to blink while portraying a desensitized psychopathic serial killer with unusual system of principles that makes him insensitive not only to pain of other human beings but to his own physical pain (referring to the scene where he treats his wounds without a twitch in the face); calm and wise Tommy Lee Jones; to the very warm simple and deep at the same times Kelly McDonald. According to actors, Coen brothers don’t instruct their actors about every detail and don’t read script with them, which with a lack of dialog in the film, in my opinion, challenged actors to find new approaches to portray their characters and opens for them more opportunities to open up as actors. The interesting part about actors in this film is their accents, for example, Moss has a thick Texas western accent, while his wife portrayed by a talented British actress has a soft melodic sweet southern accent.
Cinematography in the film was performed by Roger Deakins known for his work in Shawshank Redemption, Revolutionary Road and 9 film collaborations with Coen brothers among which Fargo, The Big Lebowski and others. One peculiar thing about Coen brothers and their works with Deakins is that they produce storyboards for every shot in their movies, and most of the storyboards are used in the film production. In “No Country For Old Men” he used many wide-angle shots to show the barren land of Texas, for example the first shot in the film. These kind of shots with yellow filters he used leave a feeling of an old man’s perspective: calm, a bit tired, slow and peaceful which underlined the topic of the movie. Having a very little dialogue, the film uses visual to grow suspense. Like in a classic noir film, Deakon uses backlight and silhouettes, deep shadows, for example, in the scene when Bell enters the crime scene in motel where Moss was killed and the killer is hiding. He is backlit by the car lights and upon his entrance we see the silhouette, that reminds one of the wester hero. The difference between the thriller, and Coen’s movie is that nobody jumps out from around the corner, rather Anton slowly emerges behind the victim like in the scene when he murders his guardian, when the last is talking on phone. In this scene Deakon widely uses a high-angle shot where Bardem’s character is seen from below, that makes a viewer “be” his victim. It is not the only way in which Deakon engages the viewer. The other method he uses is moving his camera instead of zooming in, that make a viewer move forward or backwards with a camera, like in the scene on the gas station. Apart from the yellow filter, the blue filter is usually used during the night scenes.
Editing. Coen brothers use several editing technics, but the one used the most is the “eye-line” match, when the shots are cut in the ways that a picture follows the character’s eyes. For example, in the scene when we first met Moss, he is hunting and looking in binocular. The scene cuts from the shot of binocular to the shot of the animal he sees, to the shot of the cars, to the dead men, to a man, to a satchel etc. The camera moves with the character and becomes his eyes. A viewer sees what Llewelyn sees and experiences what he experiences. For more suspense, Coens combine the eye-line matching technique with parallel editing when actions of different characters are shown simultaneously as they are happening at the same time. The example of the use of this technique in “No Country For Old Men” is the scene in motel when Llewelyn is preparing for Anton’s arrival and we see Anton looking for Llewelyn in the motel.
Art Direction and design. Most main location for the shooting were found in New Mexico and Texas. Many scenes are shot in a desert which gives it a western feeling. Other than that, there are many shots in motels, which is not unusual for Coen brothers, the opposite, they are known for their love to motel scenes. Both director and cinematographer attempt to keep everything as realistic as possible with a flair of an old man view, they focus on details such as candy wrapper, milk bottle, reflections etc. What makes it different from other thrillers is a very sparse use of music and sound effects. In a classic thriller soundtrack and sound effect “make” the movie, create the suspense. Coen's decided to go the opposite way. The lack of music attributes to build up of suspense: it is used so rare that when there is some sound it brings up attention right away, like the sound of wrapper or the detecting mechanism that Anton used to track down Moss. A thought was also put into Anton’s haircut, very particular “out-of-the-place” that gave him a sort of an angelic/diabolic appearance and emphasized his craziness.
Like their other films, “No Country For Old Men” is full of violence, and as much as the violence is graphic, they don’t overuse it, but dose perfectly to keep the viewer on the edge. As they usually collaborate with the same cinematographer its is not surprising that their films are made using the same techniques, such as above-mentioned eye-line match, that was used in “No Country For Old Men”, we can also see in Fargo. The perfect timing in cutting is a trademark of the directing duo. They use subtle transition for a scene in “No Country For Old Men” when the close-up of the coin slowly transitions in a burned grass of a desert, the same trick they use in Blood Simple with a close up of a ceiling fan that transitions into a ceiling fan in another room. Their another trademark is using wide shots for American scenery that can we can notice in their other works (Fargo, Raising Arizona). The similarity in the aforementioned films is also in the fact that their characters spends a big part of the films on the road or in the wilderness, the road also being shot with the wide angle.The themes they attempt to discuss are similar to Fargo and Raising Arizona, as there is always money that challenges character’s morals and brings punishment in a form of fate, that incarcerates a character in Rising Arizona and kills Moss in “No Country For Old Men.”
In my opinion, “No Country For Old Men” is the best work of Joel and Ethan Coen, the film they were preparing to during all their career by working on Raising Arizona, Fargo, Big Lebowsky. Everything in it is perfect and just enough without any redundancies. Just enough dialog, just enough suspense, and just enough violence. While similar topics were brought up in their previous films, “No Country For Old Men” encourages self reflection on a deeper level. The visual effects, the way they cut shots keeps a viewer on the edge fully submerged in the story for 2 hours.
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