Definitely a film school pre-requisite, this highly acclaimed film (that's an understatement...see them here) has been the talk of movie buffs and non-movie buffs for its unique approach to rewriting the rules of modern cinema leaving audiences either in a state of wonderment or in a state of wonderment.
While waiting for the movie for a month or so after first seeing the trailer on apple's site, I knew just from the talent involved (Coen Bros., Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem) that it would be one to watch, I just wasn't aware of what exactly was in store for me until I saw it.
The movie was crafted with great suspense, timing and pacing. But that's just on the surface. What the Coen Bros. opted for on another level was to play with the audience's ideas and expectations of how modern cinema has trained us all. What I mean is, just when you expect the crescendo and climax to hit...they give you something else instead - something that takes you in the direction of the story that they want to give you.
On the Ending
The ending of the movie left audience members moaning and groaning in disbelief. "What the?!", was my initial response. At the moment, I thought the movie ended without resolve, and also too abruptly. I felt cheated and even a little upset. Understand that when it comes to all films that I watch (indie to mainstream), I view them all with patient eyes and an open mind. And even with all my past viewing experiences, I was still thrown for a loop. I just couldn't "get it".
Then I Got It
From the theatre to the parking lot across the street, we kept trying to make sense of it all and why they left us with such a confusing ending. I just felt confused. Well...therein lies the answer - in the perspective of Tommy Lee Jones' character and the perplexing new world that has now taken over, he just couldn't understand "why" and "how". Why and how. So, little did I know, the real story was revealed - at the beginning and at the end of the movie. Everything in between is just a catalyst.
I'm just giving you all the short version of my version. I could go on for days talking about what the movie stands for, what the character of "Chigurh" symbolizes and why the Coens did what they did. Instead, I'll leave that up to you. You might need to watch the movie more than once to fit the pieces together more clearly, but it'll be worth it.
For more insight to the movie, here are some really good blog posts:
Premiere.com - More 'No Country' Matters: Motel Shots, or, Gimme Some Chigurh
Premiere.com - A Ghost And A Dream: Notes on the final quarter of 'No Country For Old Men'
The New Yorker - No, But We Saw the Movie
Newsweek - Josh Brolin talks about his Moustache, and "No Country's" Ending
MeetInTheLobby.com - Debate: “No Country for Old Men” Ending
Ain't It Cool News Discussion Board - No country for Old Men
Rotten Tomatoes Discussion Board - No Country for Old Men
Understanding the movie after seeing it and not while watching it is pretty powerful stuff. Especially for the Coens' to have the gumption to do something like this - to go out on a limb at the risk of falling flat on their bottom in front of everyone. Kudos to the Coens.
Now, of course, this is just my take on it. I think it's the intention of the Coens to do just that. For everyone to open it up to interpretation of what they think it is and about, trying hard to peel away layers that just moments ago didn't even know existed. I think Don said it best immediately following the end of the movie after it cuts to black - "Ha ha! Your zipper's down!"