#200 / 365 – ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007) – 122 mins
IMDb Challenge #120 / 250 – Ranked #119 – Via DVD Collection
After he finds $2 million in the desert where a drug deal has apparently gone wrong, working man Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds himself on the run. His pursuer is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), an unemotional killer with a unique murder weapon at his disposal. Throughout, soon to be retired Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) attempts to convince Moss, mostly through his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), that he should turn the money over to the authorities or this could all end in tragedy.
There was no better way to celebrate crossing off by my 200th film in the challenge, by watching one of my all-time favourites and this masterpiece from the Coen Brothers.
Has previously mentioned in my review of the timeless classic ‘There Will Be Blood’ on Day 220, that Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay (from Cormack McCarthy novel) narrowly romped home with the Best Picture and Best Director awards in 2008.
I just love everything in this violent, poetic, cat-and-mouse crime thriller, that’s a Western that’s not a Western, as it moves along effortlessly amongst the three sets of sensibilities from the key players that blend together like a potent cocktail. Mixed British cinematographer Roger Deakins, who is now collaboratively a third Coen brother, stunning cinematography means stylistically it’s flawless. However the film’s richness comes from its characters, where everyone is a pleasure to watch.
All of their performances are memorable from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald and Woody Harrelson, but its Javier Bardem who steals the screen in a his Oscar-winning and menacing performance as the creepy-looking Anton. In many of the scenes he has no dialogue. If he is speaking, he is striking fear into others. Much of the suspense comes from the notion that Anton could kill anyone he encounters without hesitation. Very few people are lucky here. Take the “1958. It’s been traveling twenty-two years to get here.” scene which is a perfectly crafted, and to where not an ounce of dialogue is wasted. At the point, Anton flips a coin and asks the gas station proprietor to call it. You fear for this man’s life, because you simply cannot predict what he will do next.
No Country for Old Men has an ending that as inspired some controversy, amongst fans because it does leave you pondering. I’m a big supporter of The Coen’s, and they have made some truly memorable films, but for me here and in True Grit they haven’t crafted two more complete & perfect pictures, which many will argue too. Simply unmissable.
#201 / 365 – ‘For a Few Dollars More’ (1965) – 132 mins
IMDb Challenge #121 / 250 – Ranked #124 – Via DVD Collection
Two bounty-hunters, the vengeance-seeking Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) and the purely mercenary Monco (Clint Eastwood), track the flamboyantly insane outlaw El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) who has wronged Mortimer’s family. El Indio, meanwhile, plans to rob a supposedly impregnable bank in El Paso.
It was time for another Western albeit a proper one this time, from the filmmaker Sergio Leone, who arguably with his roughened style defined the spaghetti western genre. For a Few Dollars more, is the middle and weakest film in Leone’s trilogy about The Man With No Name, the character that made Clint Eastwood an international star. It was a surprisingly anomalies to me that the first part in the saga ‘A Fistful of Dollars (1964)’ doesn’t even rank on the IMDb 250, whilst the and most defining final chapter ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)’ thankfully rests all the way up at number four.
For A Few Dollars more is still a great movie and contains the single best scene in all of the movies, where Eastwood’s character (this time called Monco) and Mortimer size each other up in the streets, it’s a moment that crackles with energy. I can’t go by without mentioning Ennio Morricone’s score, like throughout the trilogy it’s a seminal piece of work that is arguably the most evocative the Western genre has to offer.
#202 / 365 – ‘Fargo’ (1996) – 98 mins
IMDb Challenge #122 / 250 – Ranked #118 – Via iTunes
A patrolman and two innocent bystanders are discovered murdered in cold blood on a snowy North Dakota highway, leading very pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) on an investigation that uncovers a conspiracy of greed and ineptitude. Minneapolis husband, farther and car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), who has long chafed under the thumb of his wealthy boss and father-in-law, concocts an elaborate scheme involving the kidnapping of his wife and a million-dollar ransom to pay off his extensive gambling debts. However, everything that could possibly go wrong indeed DOES go wrong. Officer Gunderson’s outwardly homespun and folksy persona conceals a penetrating mind and a fierce moral compass, and she easily sees through the poorly executed and badly hidden events perpetrated by the bumbling, yet highly dangerous kidnappers, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare).
After the disappointing ‘Barton Fink (1991)’ and ‘Hudsucker Proxy (1994)’. With it’s healthy dose of black humor Fargo marked a supreme return to form for the Cohen brothers. Fargo is full of unpredictable plot twists, subtle coolness, skillful camera work, and top draw acting especially from Frances McDormand who puts in an oscar winning turn as the – “Oh my. Where? Yeah? Aw geez. Okay, there in a jif. Real good, then.” pregnant police officer. Seek out Fargo its a bizarre film experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
#203 / 365 – ‘Hotel Rwanda’ (2004) – 121 mins
IMDb Challenge #123 / 250 – Ranked #115 – Via DVD collection
As Rwanda descends into genocide in 1994, as Hutus slashe to death thousands of Tutzis, the manager of the Belgian owned Milles Collines 4-star hotel in Kigali, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), sets out to protect his wife and children – and as the murderous gangs close in, he ends up saving and protecting over 1200 people. He bribes the militia commander when necessary, he tells him tall tales about American spy satellites seeing everything and does anything he can to maintain some sort of protection to keep the Hutus away. Meanwhile, the West is sending planes – but only evacuate their white citizens. The United Nations peacekeeper force, led by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) is powerless.
Don Cheadle is simply outstanding as Paul, at first depicting his quiet ease as a businessman, who quite rightfully cares for his family at first, but when presented with these hard choices, he flawlessly changes as a character. There are some deeply moving scenes but at times writer/director Terry George’s direction comes across as a bit too glossy.
To shortly summarise Hotel Rwanda is a solid, harrowing and stirring watch that has an effective thought provoking message that needed to be delivered on some of the worst atrocities in history, to which Terry George gets across well.