Yesterday I went with my friend Joe to see the eponymous movie, which was directed by the Cohen brothers. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin, this movie was just soaked in atmosphere. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, it’s full of his usual cast of lawmen, outlaws, border rats, and other back-country characters.
A lot of people die in this movie. Or, to put it differently, a lot of people are killed in this movie. I mean an awful lot. And so when I got home my mother asked me how the movie was, and I told her it was great, but she wouldn’t have lasted through the first two minutes. My tastes and her tastes have only the teeny, tiniest overlap, mainly in the area of obscure foreign dramas. She can’t understand the appeal of movies like this (or other great movies like Fargo), because to her the violence and death is only repulsive, never entertaining.
Is it wrong to enjoy a movie like this, which isn’t so much immoral as amoral? I think there are two ways to look at it. One way would be that somehow these movies are abberations, and by making, promoting, and watching them we are somehow encouraging this type of behaviour. Another way to look at it, which is the one I subscribe to, is that by watching these kinds of behaviours, it somehow innoculates us against them in reality. Not that I’m saying that people who don’t watch movies like this will all become sociopathic killers, but maybe by watching we somehow feed that aggressive, impulsive side of ourselves that is best kept locked up.
Either way, if you liked Fargo or The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, you’ll love No Country for Old Men.