A man who finds a satchel of money in the desert is pursued by a deadly hitman.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones
Review by Jon Kissel
No Country For Old Men is indicative of both how good its directors are and what a phenomenal year for movies 2007 was. This is a film that has it all: memorable characters, quotable lines, thrilling setpieces, a coherent worldview, the perfect amount of humor to leaven the darkness, and something to say about how we view history and justice and cause and effect. It’s all those things, while also being arguably Joel and Ethan Coen’s sixth or seventh best film and barely cracking my personal top 5 for 2007 releases. That this near-perfect film is relegated to those kinds of finishes makes me want to watch Fargo or Ratatouille again, but we’re here to praise No Country first.
This one was a lot of fun. Lenny Abrahamson's Frank could have been an insufferable quirk-fest, but his story of a musician with a unique compulsion strikes the balance between oddity and pathos. Featuring a spectacular physical performance from man-in-the-head Michael Fassbender and a ridiculous soundtrack, Frank is loaded with meaty material that has kept me thinking about it long after the initial viewing.
Feel-good racial brotherhood story Green Book has been showered with adulation by the Oscars, but it’s also generated its share of controversy. In this adaptation, or purported adaptation, of a true story, interested parties have gone to war over what was included and intimated, while cultural critics wonder whether one more pat reconciliation tale between a black man and a racist white man has any place in present times, a decades-old concern that’s been pitched every time a film posits that racism can be solved by proximity and friendliness. Underneath all these questions about who gets to tell whose story and the value of catering to an audience permanently receptive to easy answers lies a son who wants to pass on an interesting thing that happened to his father, and, less compellingly, a former director of raunchy comedies wanting to move into awards contending cinema. Green Book’s one of those films where the conversation around it is more interesting than the utterly average film itself.
Modern Westerns like No Country For Old Men meets a rural, low-key version of Heat in David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water. With its Texas setting and its equal time given to the crooks and the cops that are chasing them, Mackenzie's film, written by the increasingly impressive Taylor Sheridan, is buoyed along its fairly familiar path by a top-notch cast and a resonant backdrop of scheming bankers and post-industrial blight. A perfect fit for 2016, the film gives a voice to those who want to punch the powerful in the nose by any self-destructive means necessary.
Of the South Korean directors who have entered Western orbits, Lee Chang-dong lacks the genre experimentation of Bong Joon-ho and the over-the-top melodrama of Park Chan-wook, and therefore his unflashy films have probably been seen by the least amount of people. His work is dense and cerebral in a way that Park or Bong often are, but Lee lacks the sexy hooks. The universal praise and Netflix availability of Lee’s Burning will hopefully change that. A far more accessible film than his previous, also excellent film Poetry, Burning is instantly recognizable first as a love triangle and then a thriller, a film tied to its country of origin but not so much that it becomes foreign to a non-Korean viewer. Burning can be taken in on its surface as a compelling tripartite potboiler or one can dig deeper and find a consideration of class, gender, resentment, and entitlement. With so much to offer, it’s a towering work of international cinema and not something to be overlooked.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.