When most people go to the cinema, they go with the expectation that they will be thrilled, moved or entertained before the film arrives at a suitable conclusion which more-or-less resolves the primary scenario in a satisfying manner. Sometimes filmmakers, either through ineptitude or brazen daring, flout this convention, and deliver what is typically known as the “anti-climax”, whereby little in way of a solution or cathartic purge is provided for the viewer. While many films are ambiguous, these specific examples – either good or bad – clearly build up to some sort of a grand finale, only to completely betray it in favour of something else, much to either the amazement, or more often, the disdain of viewers everywhere.
1. No Country for Old Men (2007)
No Country for Old Men was one of the most heavily anticipated films of 2007, and with absolutely good reason, given that it came from the brilliant minds of the Coen Brothers, adapting Cormac McCarthy’s legendary novel of the same name. It featured an all-star cast, a winding, engrossing plot, and some fairly wily tricks on the part of the Coens which are either going to make you love the film even more or totally hate it. Note how Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the protagonist of the piece, not only dies ahead of the climax, but is killed off-screen; I firmly recall hearing groans from the other audience members as I watched it in the cinema. But it gets worse…
At the climax, the villainous Anton Chigurh, who has been in pursuit of a large sum of money for the entire film’s duration, escapes virtually scot-free (minus a broken arm from a car accident), while Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Ed Tom Bell simply retires, lamenting how he is no longer for this violent, harsh wilderness, being one of the titular “old men”, as it were. With little more than that, we glance at Bell’s face one more time, before the Coens cut to black and the film is over. While more savvy viewers might note how the Coens seemed to intentionally toy with convention and challenge our visceral need to see a bloody shootout climax, it didn’t go over particularly well with all viewers, even if it still garnered the Academy Award for Best Picture.
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