Ah, finally. I’ve been waiting oh so long to take Brian to task. He writes in his No Country post how “endings aren’t that big a deal to [him].” He then goes on to some tortured math, equating the final Sopranos scene and the closing shots of The Departed to 10% of a movie. Dear oh dear. I think even the argument that each X percent of a movie should be weighted equally is flawed, though I’m not fervently opposed to it.

A somewhat appropriate analogy might be a gymnastics routine. Like the floor exercise, a movie can be filled with Celine Dion songs and flips and never ever leaving the mat (oh, and if you are Brian, 15 year old girls), but if you don’t stick the landing, the judges are going to dock you like crazy. Oh, um, I might be a bit of an Olympics junkie.

It isn’t a perfect analogy, of course. Movie type certainly has an impact on how important the ending is to the movie. I’d argue that mysteries, in general, have an especially high dependence on the success of the ending, where comedies, in general, are more about how funny they make the trip to the often-formulaic ending. Much of the point of a mystery is to find out how and why, where in a comedy we can generally assume everything turns out alright and the hero and heroine end up together.

Thus, I’d argue that an atrocious ending can totally sink a movie, but is much more likely to do so for a movie that leans towards the thriller side of the spectrum. I’d also point out that it makes sense that it is so rare for a movie to have an ending much worse or much better than the rest of the movie. If 90% of the movie is of one quality, it doesn’t stand to reason the other 10% would be drastically different.

Wait. Are we supposed to be talking a movie or something? <looks up at title of post> Ah, yes. Before I start ripping this movie, let me get two things about it out of the way. First, my theories on endings aside, while I found the ending dreadful, I can’t imagine any sort of ending to this movie that would have put it anywhere near my favorite movies of the year. And second, I’ve still a few movies to go, but so far I haven’t seen any supporting actor get anywhere in the vicinity of Javier Bardem.

Another thing that worked well for the movie was how five minutes after meeting each character, we essentially knew that character. I mean that at the end of the movie, we essentially know as much about Anton and the gas station owner as after their meeting. I wouldn’t call it a lack of character development, I’d call it an elegant simplicity that meshes well with the story and landscape.

Alas, part of the reason for the successful meshing is also part of its downfall. Well, I’m not sure if the relative simplicity of the story bothers me as much as the matter-of-fact-ly way the story is conveyed. While I understand that might fit in with the scenery, it doesn’t do anything for me. Everything that happens in the movie is treated as an inevitability. I can imagine each character reacting to each event as, “Well, yup, of course that happened.”

I’d also like to respond to Brian’s remarks about the scenery. While I appreciate the importance of scenery in setting the tone of a movie, I’ve yet to find a movie where the background has impacted my view of the film.

To briefly wrap up the rest of my problems with the movie: I didn’t really like Tommy Lee Jones’ subplot. I’ll freely admit that my deep and undying love for mystery shows may have something to do with that, but I put the onus of creating compelling characters on the movie. Additionally, I found the “cat and mouse” aspects sorely lacking. I won’t attempt to deconstruct the ending, but I felt it should have ended with Anton killing Kelly MacDonald’s character. And not just because she was the worst character in the movie.

In case it hasn’t become clear, I’m looking forward to whining quite a bit when this movie receives screenplay, picture, and director nominations.

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