So I finally saw NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN today, though I went in having heard that there was a lot of debate about the ending.
**** SPOILERS ****
I hated the ending. It turned what was a great movie into an only-pretty-good one.
It's not the ambiguity that bothers me. Ambiguity is fine, and I wasn't bothered by the fact that we don't learn the fate of the wife, or the bad guy goes unpunished.
What bothered me is that this is a movie about a guy who finds a pile of money, decides to try to run with it, is chased by some truly bad men, and not only has to stay alive, but realizes that the main guy after him is such a psychopath that this is unlikely.
And we're with Josh Brolin's character. The whole Mexico sequence has some great, tense stuff. We can't wait to see what will happen next, what step he can possible take, to slip out of the noose he has wrapped himself in. And if he can't get out of the noose (and that's ultimately the case), well then that works.
But then there's that jump, and suddenly Tommy Lee Jones is driving up to the aftermath of the shooting, and Josh Brolin is dead, and what-the-hell?
Yeah, it's definitely a different way to tell the story, and in the right spot in the right movie a sequence like this can work well, because we can fill in the blanks in most crime scenes; we've seen Javier Bardem's character, and we can make some pretty good guesses about how it went down.
But it's not satisfying. Because if Josh Brolin's character reaches the point where he now truly has to fight for his life, and makes a decision that dooms him (because there WAS a decision that dooms him, whether it was walking into an ambush, or otherwise being unprepared when Javier Bardem shows up), I want to see that decision. I want to see it played out.
And the way the Coen brothers handled it, I just felt ripped off.
(How does the book handle it, does anyone know? Is there something different in the screenplay version?)
The other big problem is that, at that point, suddenly the tale is effectively over. Josh Brolin is dead, and Javier Bardem apparently has the money... and yet the movie rattles along for another 15-20 minutes of Tommy Lee Jones musing, and Javier Bardem going to see the wife, and Javier Bardem's car accident.
And don't get me wrong: there's some good writing in these scenes, and they are well put together. But the movie's over, and indeed nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in these scenes to spin the movie in any new direction. All the air has gone out of the movie, and when it was over, you can feel the deflation in the audience.
And it's not a good deflation.
Still, it's a good movie, and it really had me most of the way. It's the kind of movie that, while I was watching it, made me want to sit in front of a computer, and write something wonderful.
Now I just want to write that missing sequence.