I recently took a literature class where the professor spoiled the end of the book for the whole body of people. We groaned and complained because he is notorious about spoiling and this was a big twist; but he claimed that as students of literature, we should have been observant enough to deduce the ending simply from the title. This was the first time that I really started considering the titles of works of art, including the titles that I give my own projects.
"No Country for Old Men" presents a perplexing problem for my title conundrum because I really couldn't figure out the title and I wasn't too keen on seeing it a second time. The first time I saw this movie I was tired and bored and it seemed that the movie dragged on forever. I was convinced that the film was well over the two and a half hour mark; but when I went back and double checked, imagine my surprised when—barely even two hours!
So here we go for the second time!
"No Country for Old Men" was infinitely better the second time around. The subtleties of the movie that I missed the first time were more obvious on a second viewing and slowly and surely I became convinced that this weird thriller/western is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Tommy Lee Jones's voice begins this film and he tells the story of a boy who kidnapped a young girl and planned to kill her, just because he could. When asked about the planned murder, the boy said that if he was let go he would try to kill again—he had been planning on murder since a young age. Jones's character, Sheriff Bell, realizes that this boy is a threat to society and he is executed.
Why? Ask yourself this question again and again as you watch this movie.
The crime that we are about to see is unexplainable, so says Bell.
A man with a curious disposition is placed in the back seat of a cop's car and taken to a holding station. He steps out of his handcuffs and quickly strangles a man with them. Then he goes to the bathroom and calmly washes the blood from his hands. Going out the door he stops and another body hits the ground and now he has a different car.
Llewelyn Moss is out hunting when he stumbles across a drug deal gone awry. Bodies are scattered everywhere and bullet holes pierce the bodies of four trucks in a clearing.
These two men, Llewelyn and the killer, will become the hunter and the hunted but how is the question.
While "No Country for Old Men" could just stick to a basic crime movie, yet there's so much more to it than that.
What makes it so great? Is it the gritty realism—the fact that there is no music that scores the actions of our characters? Is is the acting which, in each and every character, is flawless? Is it the Coen brothers's dialogue and direction? Yes to all.
The bleakness and style with which "No Country for Old Men" is shot presents a world that you can enter and be confident in its reality. All the characters are given due time to finish simple activities like cutting a shirt with scissors, which adds to the realistic style of the movie.
Near the end when things are wrapping up (definitely not in the way you would expect), I was getting a powerful sense of fulfilment. At last, I realized what the title meant.
Everything becomes clear when you look at Bell and his actions—watch what he does.
Besides Jones, there is Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem—these three men makes up most of the entire movie.
The first third of the film could really be silent with long shots of the open plains and the movement of men from one area to another. But when the dialogue comes along, it feels very local. The Coens did "Fargo" which captured the North Dakota dialect perfectly and here they do it again except that they are recreating the South with their quaint colloquialisms and sayings.
"No Country for Old Men" is based on the book by Cormac McCarthy which seems like a near impossible book to write, having only seen the movie.
The title itself is taken from from the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats:
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect
Both the Coens and McCarthy appear to have altered the meaning of the lines in the poem to fit their movie/book, which I like better.
"No Country for Old Men" really is one of a kind and could never be duplicated even if tried
Score: 4 out of 4 stars