Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Review - No Country for Old Men vs. A Simple Plan

There are spoilers here. Please stop now and watch both movies first. Acutally, just watch "A Simple Plan" and don't worry about missing "No Country...".


Watched it? OK, Good. Here we go. I haven't seen "A Simple Plan" in a couple of years so make comments if I get something wrong.

ASP: Wooded back country.
NCfOM: Desert back country.

Main finder of the Money:
ASP: Poor married guy w/ no children.
NCfOM: Poor married guy w/ no children.

Money from what?
ASP: Drugs.
NCfOM: Drugs.

How they handle the money:
ASP: Sit on it for a long time until the 'heat' wears off.
NCfOM: Sit on it for a long time until the 'heat' wears off.

Is the money 'free'?
ASP: No, the owners of the money/drugs want it back, and the police are looking for it, too.
NCfOM: No, the owners of the money/drugs want it back, and the police are looking for it, too.

Do the 'good guys' get to spend the money in the end?
ASP: No. Oh, and there's a death.
NCfOM: No. Oh, and there's lots of deaths.

Collateral deaths?
ASP: No.
NCfOM: A ton of 'em.

As you can tell by my biased comparison, the movies are very similar. Same basic idea of finding drug money, keeping it for a while, then plan on spending a little at a time after the bad guys stop looking for the money.

So why do I think ASP is better? ASP spends most of the time following the main guy and his wife, his friend, and his 'special' brother, so you really start to feel for the characters. NCfOM doesn't make me care for anybody except maybe the air canister guy, and that's only out of morbid curiosity.

ASP is more of a psychological drama about how ordinary folk handle the money, along with the greed, betrayal and everything else it brings. NCfOM is a long, slow chase scene with only one exploding car.

However, the ending is what clinches it for me. NCfOM implies that all of the 'good guys' die, but it's only spelled out for one of them. Why make us WONDER if the characters died? What's the point? It's obvious they want you to leave the movie thinking they died, but there's no mental reward for thinking they survived. Usually if the movie ends ambiguously it's ripe for debate about what really happened after the movie stopped. This is not the case.

ASP gradually builds up to the finale, with a very tearful sacrifice of one of the three men, and they find out after the death that the money is marked to be instantly traceable, so anyone that spends even the first dollar will be found (not exactly sure how this would work if you buy furniture and cars with cash, no ID required, but whatever). The buildup also shows the growing tension between the husband and wife as 'do what is best' vs 'do what is best FOR US' conversations become more aggressive. Finally, you really feel for the remaining characters at the end of the movie because they have ripped their lives apart for essentially nothing--no money, death of loved ones, etc.

I just don't get why this movie is being pushed by the critics.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex Moore said...

I think you missed the point of "No Country"-- it's not about the briefcase.

Every time I saw the film in the theatres, the people who were distracted by the briefcase and therefore ended up missing the entire point of the film could be identified easily for they were the ones yelling at the screen when the film ended.

The heart and soul of the film lies in the Tommy Lee Jones monologues at the beginning and end of the film, and also in his dialogues throughout, but some people missed these while thinking to themselves, "blah blah blah, what about the briefcase?"

Anonymous said...

Excellent review, I totally agree!

Ok, I went and listened to Tommy Lee again to try to discertain just what I had missed..

I guess I am not enlightened enough, would anyone care to actually break down just what I was supposed to have missed?

I am smart enough to understand that some people like to walk around feeling "enlightened" but without any real clue as to what happened in the film... so hopefully someone who knows why they are enlightened can provide a thoughtful explanation as to what the heck I missed.

Spare me the "You can't possibly understand because you aren't enlightened" stuff, because that is code for "I just walk around saying I like the movie without really knowing why".

Anonymous said...

for a similar movie from the coen bros that was actually good, Fargo.