No Quandary For Old Men

[imdb No Country for Old Men]So, I’ve seen No Country for Old Men three times now, and I’m still not feelin’ it. It’s easily the Coen brother’s best movie since 2001′s The Man Who Wasn’t There, but I’m not sure it’s really worthy of all the praise it’s received. Technically it’s very well made, with exceptional cinematography and a subtle, effective score. And I didn’t even mind the anticlimactic non-ending.

I thought the point of the movie was a criticism of society, by way of proving Sheriff Bell’s (Tommy Lee Jones) opinions on the degradation of society accurate. As the body count rises, more of the violence is pushed off screen and the audience becomes more apathetic toward it. Is anyone at all disturbed when Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is killed? No one I know. Everyone is waiting for the ultimate showdown between Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), which never comes and is the cause for most of the disappointment.

My gripe has to do with the story. I haven’t read the book, so I’m just speaking to the movie. There were several unexplained and unmotivated decisions by some of the characters that just kind of left me, I want to say dumbfounded, but maybe I’ll just say befuddled.

When Moss is on his Pronghorn hunt, he clearly wounds one of the antelopes. While tracking it, he comes across a blood trail crossing that of the antelope. He sees the new blood trail comes from a wounded dog. Instead of continuing to follow the animal he stalked and wounded, he follows the dog’s trail back to where it started. Why? He has no expectation of finding anything worthwhile. All he knows is a bleeding dog came from there.

That leads him to the scene of the drug deal-turned-massacre. He observes the scene, noting all the dead bodies, and decides to go investigate. I would think most reasonable people slowly back away and notify the authorities, not really wanting to get involved. But Moss walks through the carnage with his rifle at the ready. Do most people go wandering through the scene of a shootout, feeling the need to defend themselves, for no reason other than curiosity?

Moss then finds the only survivor, tells him he doesn’t have any water, and continues checking things out. He sees the drugs but no money, and goes on the search for the “last man standing.” He’s going in search of the man who survived this bloodbath. What is he going to do when he finds him? Kill him and take the money he might or might not have? Give him a ride back to town? Seriously, why go looking?

Then later that night he feels compelled to take water to the dying man in the truck. Moss certainly didn’t seem too concerned about the man earlier in the day, and for all he knows he made a clean getaway with the money, so why risk it? Really, when he came across the man in the truck, he was completely dismissive of the situation.

And what was the point of Carson Wells? He seemed completely redundant to me. He tells us Chigurh is evil. We pretty much knew that. His death proves Chigurh can get the jump on anyone. We knew that, too. The only thing he did to move the plot forward was to be killed in his room just prior to Moss calling. Chigurh is there to answer and tell Moss his options. Too much time spent on that character just to be a conduit to that scene.

At some point during this whole thing, Sheriff Bell somehow finds out Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) is staying with her mother in Odessa. I went through the prior scenes several times and couldn’t find where he figured that out. We saw Chigurh find the phone bill and call Carla Jean’s mom, but it’s never established that Sheriff Bell figures that out. Out of the blue he calls her. How the hell did he know where she was?

I could list a few more of my head scratching moments, but those are the major ones. If I missed some details that answer some of my questions, or I’m totally off base in my assessments, let me know. With these lapses in logic, it puzzles me why it gets so much praise. Good? Yes. Great? Hardly.

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