By far, the most over-rated film of the year, this offering from the Coens brings nothing to the world of cinema worth noting.
The best I can say is that it is consistent — consistently empty. It is devoid of all the elements that make up narrative film.
To start with, Javier Bardem‘s character, a ruthless bounty hunter, is supposed to be terrifying. He is creepy, I suppose, but there is nothing for us to be scared of. Anthony Perkins used his innocence, his little boy face. Anthony Hopkins was refined and cultured. This guy is…well, nothing. Fear is grounded in the unknown, but we have to be aware of what it is that we don’t know. Therefore, I found little to fear, and even less, a desire to understand him.
Josh Brolin plays the quarry of Bardem‘s hunt and I think we are supposed to identify with him and his plight. We’re supposed to wonder what we would do if we found a suitcase full of money. But we don’t. Although his performance is commendable, his character is a sleazy ne’er-do-well, whose childish gyrations belie his supposed intelligence and maturity. Anyone worth their salt would have fled the country (permanently), with or without sadistic killer on their tail. I mean, you just found a suitcase full of money! You can afford the firt plane out of there, long before he knows it’s gone. And there is no sub-story where Brolin is attempting to find the rightful owner or wrestling with his own conscience. No, he fully intends to keep it, but is somehow going to wear out his pursuer by bouncing for roadside motel to hovel in generic bordertown, Texas.
Tommy Lee Jones is cast as the sheriff (what else?) as the third player in the string of pressboard-door busting-down scenes. He floats in and out of the loose narrative, just missing one or the other of them, until he ends the movie with a milquetoast soliloquy. Just when someone is finally revealing a bit of humanistic character, the splicer comes down and credits roll. I can only hope that does not signal any kind of sequel.
I truly question those who found this to be the best film of the entire year. Sometimes I like a movie, sometimes I appreciate it, but I had no affinity, personal or academic, for this piece. And I tried. I have pondered what it was that made the critics rave. I fear that they were duped by a project which, from the outset, tried to make a ‘deep’, ‘important’ and ‘controversial’ film. Effort in any line of work is appreciated but in art there is such a thing as trying to hard — when it creates a fabricated intent.