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Old 01-01-2008, 10:20 AM   #101
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Default Re: No Country For Old Men (no spoilers)

I was also bothered by the off-screen end of our protagonist. Now, a good friend of mine claimed that TLJ was the protagonist, but this entire story was driven by the decisions made by Brodin (the protagonist) and Bardem (the antagonist). TLJ was the narrator - he was the conscience of the film - but he was not the protagonist. Well, not until Brodin died off screen and we were left with TLJ picking up the pieces.

I didn't have a problem with the protagonist shift, but I did have a problem with the off screen death. I didn't spend 90+ minutes with Brolin in the tightest of scrapes to not witness his demise. I'm sure he put up a great fight and it would have been fantastic to see the disappointment on his face as he realized he wasn't going to be able to face his hunter. Talk about a poignant moment missed ....

The other movie that jumps to mind that has a protagonist shift is Psycho, but of course, in that movie we see the protagonist's end in one of the most memorable death scenes in cinema history.

Further, I was bothered by the "bring water to a dying man" set up as well. It was a plot device to further the story and identify Brolin to the baddies, but it doesn't really fit his character as an experienced hunter and war vet. Had the film given the impression that the time between him finding the money and returning with the water was of shorter duration, I might have believed it, but he finds them in the middle of the afternoon and returns in the dead of night. What reasonable expectation does he have that a guy with multiple untreated gunshot wounds is going to survive that long?

Having said all that, I thought this was a fantastic movie with just a few missteps that seem to have arisen from an attempt to be faithful to the novel. And while McCarthy is certainly one of our finest living novelists, his words should not be sacrosanct when translating his work from the written page to the silver screen. If Kubrick was able to cinematically improve on Nabokov with Lolita, I think the Coen Bros. could have improved on McCarthy had they allowed themselves the freedom.

I personally enjoyed the 3rd act and agree with the posters who said that the opening narration sets up the ending we get. While the "less is more" guy in me wanted the entire film to end when Bardem's car was t-boned in the intersection, I did appreciate the quiet contemplation that followed that scene. But that was more denouement than ending.
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Old 01-01-2008, 11:23 AM   #102
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Default Re: No Country For Old Men (no spoilers)

I read the novel a couple of weeks after the book. It's a quick read for those who are interested (two or three days if you want to blaze through).

Several things emerge in the book that the movie did not do, which made the film more confusing in my opinion. WARNING, SPOILERS about the book below.

1. Moss's decision to go back makes more sense. It's subtle and maybe the Coens meant the same thing in the movie, but it was not clear and thus a failing. In the book, Moss is worried that the fellow he saw dying in the truck might still be alive and somehow identify him. Yes he had gunshot wounds, but paranoia is gripping him. I think the water might be an afterthought, to give to the guy as a last request before he finishes him off. In the movie, it comes off purely as conscience whereas in the book (it's one line or two) he fears the fellow somehow could have lived and would remember him. Thus he has to go back to remedy that, which makes sense given his character.

2. Chigurh's decision to go on the rampage is explained. I kept wondering in the film why he became unhinged and how he was captured by the cop in the beginning. That is explained in the book. It's not the greatest but does provide some set up and some understanding of his character.

3. Ed Tom Bell's narrative works much better in the book. It is more frequent and cuts in to reflect on his career, current events, and his regrets. It works in the novel because it's all interior, whereas in the film he has to explain it to people. And in such an action oriented film his narrative kind of throws you out of that action whereas in the novel you accept it more. Plus, you really understand his character- his regrets, his sense of helplessness, his passivity in the face of a changing world.

However, the Coens do remain exceptionally faithful. In the novel, the build up does peter away completely. Moss's death does occur off screen so to speak, and it concludes with the same utter anti-climax.

I said this in an earlier post: I think this might have been the flaw of the film. A film is a different experience from the book. If you want to be loyal to the book (though there is no rule that you have to), you should take the spirit of that work and "adapt" it to film. There is little point in "translating" print to screen. I want the experience the medium of film provides, and I don't think No Country, in book form, works on screen and this is pretty much what the Coens did. The Coens could easily have done a little more to make the film experience different and therefore better, but they really tried to stay true and what we get is not a surprise. Still, I think the movie is a B+. Could have been an A, but I suppose they wanted to do something non-traditional and in that they did succeed.
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Old 01-01-2008, 02:53 PM   #103
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I'm looking forward to the book. It's my next read.
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Old 01-12-2008, 04:09 PM   #104
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Default Re: No Country For Old Men (no spoilers)

Finally got around to seeing this and reading the thread. So, then...

[SPOILERS]

I think a lot of frustration with the way the film plays out stems from viewing Llewelyn as the protagonist.

He’s not, Sheriff Tom Bell is.

As someone has pointed out, the bag of money is nothing but a McGuffin, and by extension so is Llewelyn. The man’s actions serve as the inciting incident, and after that he’s basically irrelevant… as his off-screen death shows, once the butterfly effect has been set into place, his inevitable demise has no more currency than the hotel clerk’s or any other person that got into Chigurh’s way.

I found the link that kintnerboy provided interesting reading also, in that the essayist cited the “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed” line from Yeat’s “The Second Coming” as important, and I think that was a savvy observation. When Llewelyn gets whacked off screen, a line from the same poem immediately came to mind: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”, but it was my reaction on a narrative level. I thought that the movie itself was falling apart. But as the rest of the film progressed, it fell back into place. The audience was supposed to be in the same place as the sheriff, confused by the betrayal of their expectations.

The film bucks convention deliberately, mirroring the sheriff’s growing bewilderment and dawning realization that even he himself is irrelevant, in that his job is no longer preventing crime as he thought it was, but only showing up afterwards to take notes, write a report and send it in. And in the end, doddering about under the realization that that is always how it has been. Is the road one takes, as Chigurh points out, worth taking if it leads one to nothing.

The ripple effect of the seeds of the Iran Contra scandal is also to be taken into consideration, where the CIA (here perhaps represented by the Harrelson character and his boss) got into the drug dealing biz with South Americans to fund black ops in the Middle East. Which has been said to have resulted in the introduction of crack into the American inner city and the ensuing social repercussions of that. And by the ambiguity of the time frame, continues. With that in mind, the title of the movie takes on an even deeper meaning.

And also from "The Second Coming":

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
"

Chigurh, anyone?
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Old 01-12-2008, 04:25 PM   #105
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TLJ is in the movie for at most, 20% of it. He does nothing to advance the story, all he does is comment on it.

The only way you can delude yourself into thinking TLJ is the protagonist is if you are so desperate to pretend this film is not flawed that you brainwash yourself into thinking a very minor character who does nothing in the story could be a protagonist.

I defy you to write a story where the protagonist is in it for 20% and does noting to advance your tale. Good luck selling that.

The only credible alternative to Moss not being the protagonist, which I firmly believe he is, is for Chigurh to be the protagonist (a sort of anti-hero) with Moss as the antagonist.

I think the narrative tracks better with Moss as the protagonist up until he is killed. Then it goes off the rails. Using Chigurh as the protagonist, the narrative doesn't get on track until late in the story but has a focus problem through the entire story which makes for a cryptic narrative and abstruse character.

Either choice is a bad choice.
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Old 01-12-2008, 04:52 PM   #106
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Default Re: No Country For Old Men (no spoilers)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DramaKing View Post
The only way you can delude yourself into thinking TLJ is the protagonist is if you are so desperate to pretend this film is not flawed that you brainwash yourself into thinking a very minor character who does nothing in the story could be a protagonist.
And maybe you're just grumpy because the filmmakers didn't do what you wanted them to do, or abide by Syd Field's rules.

My point is that the narrative is the sheriff's story, not Llewelyn's. Just because he doesn't have all that much time on screen, the events are how he perceives they played out. His ineffectualness in progressing the story was mirrored by his ineffectualness in preventing any of the mayhem.
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:52 PM   #107
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Who gives a crap about Field? I don't.

Who said TLJ had to be effective? I sure as hell didn't.

He does have to be active.

He does have to do more than observe the aftermath and spout his folksy views on the theme.

I don't care about TLJ's effectiveness at stopping the killers and I sure as hell don't care about Syd Field. I care about good story telling.

The argument for TLJ to be the protagonist could easily be used to say R2D2 is the protagonist of Star Wars. And R2 spent more time on screen and was far more active in the story than TLJ was in NCFOM.

Next you will be telling us that Tank is the protagonist in The Matrix and that JJ Jamison is the protagonist in Spiderman.

Give me a freaking break.

Last edited by DramaKing : 01-12-2008 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:13 PM   #108
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Default Re: No Country For Old Men (no spoilers)

I suppose even the matter of protag/antag is irrelevant here... the sheriff is a passive observer of events. What happens, happens and a traditional structure has no value as the film takes on a certain meta aspect.

Personally, I enjoyed it because I have a little animosity towards protag-driven narratives. I like to see the events unfold without the tilt of a main character to color the proceedings.

No Country For Old Men was a nice change of pace from coloring-within-the-lines narrative.
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Old 01-12-2008, 09:53 PM   #109
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If the story really was about TLJ observing the events, why did we spend such a tiny part of the story with TLJ and why did we see events he could never see or even be aware of?

That's the problem with the film.

It doesn't work on the protagonist driven narrative level, it doesn't work on the documentary with an observer/commentator level.

It works a little on both levels but also fails on both levels.

Like a broken string of pearls, the movie is littered with great moments that fail to connect and become more than the some of those moments. It's that lack of narrative unity that is why I feel the film is flawed.
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Old 01-14-2008, 11:18 AM   #110
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Originally Posted by DramaKing View Post

The argument for TLJ to be the protagonist could easily be used to say R2D2 is the protagonist of Star Wars. And R2 spent more time on screen and was far more active in the story than TLJ was in NCFOM.
Excellent point. And if we continue with that hypothetic scenario, we would've stopped following Luke right before they took off to destroy the Death Star and heard about the exciting events later on from R2D2 himself.

Now how great would that have been?
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