One of the lesser known movies of 2001 was the black-and-white Coen Brothers movie The Man Who Wasn't There, a film that garnered award nominations all over the place. Due to that fact, I just had to see it...
Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand (who has also appeared in other Coen movies like Blood Simple and Fargo) and many other big names make up the cast. The acting is terrific, to say the least. Thornton gives his best performance since Sling Blade, as a purposely boring barber who blackmails his wife's lover so that he can pay for a get-rich-quick plan. McDormand has a smaller role, but she's still effective. The big winner of the movie is Tony Shalhoub, who plays a sleazy lower that knows just what to do and what to say. This role is quite a bit different from others he has done, and he nails it.
Acting is nothing without a script, though, and thankfully, The Man Who Wasn't There has a pretty damn good script. The dialogue is direct and funny at times, even when the characters are supposed to be serious, and the plot is a little quirky, but not overdone. There are some slow sections in the movie, but it probably doesn't help that I was watching this movie past midnight.
The acting is good and the script is good, but the look and feel of the film is what is so great. The movie is completely in black and white, and the way the camera moves and the angles scenes are shot at are pure genius. I'm not an expert on the technical side of films, but the Coens definitely have made a technical masterpiece here.
Again, parts of the movie are slow, and while the movie does keep your attention from beginning to end, it is so low-key at times that it would be hard to watch the movie a second time around. The Man Who Wasn't There is brilliantly made, but when all is said and done, has really that much been said and done?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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