(Review originally written at 23 November 2006)

To be honest the movie was not as good as I had hoped and expected. Of course whenever you're watching a Coen movie, expectations are high. This movie however really was not a successful experiment of using old movie style and mixing them with trademark Coen brothers humor and characters. It's too Noir for a comedy and not serious enough for a Neo Noir. So for most part the movie is an unbalanced mix of different movie styles that don't really blend in well together. Still its the subtle touch from the Coen brothers that save this movie from being weird and failed cinematic film-making experiment. It keeps the movie always fun, pleasant and light to follow. This compensates a lot.

The ending (the last ten minutes or so) also saved a lot for me. It took some nice typical Noir twists and made it obvious that the Coen brothers know their classics and how to handle the genre.

The movie is well written and takes some typical Noir twists and turns. It features some of the classic ingredients which should make this movie a delight to watch for the genre fans. It's a real solid and interesting story, in which lots of things remain unpredictable, like you should expect from a genre movie like this one. Lots is happening in this movie and sure it's not always realistic or likely but it suits the Coen brothers style well and make this a perfectly good movie to watch. Not sure about its re-playability though. I'm not interested in re-watching it any time soon. The biggest strength of the movie is its story and I'll bet that the second time the story might not come across as powerful and interesting- and certainly not as surprising all anymore.

Also nothing wrong with the style of the movie. The movie is using some atmospheric cinematography that is really fitting for the genre. Cinematographer Roger Deakins and the Coen brothers always make beautiful things together. Also the sets and costumes help to set up the right mood of the movie- and the time period the story is set in.

The movie features lots of great and well developed characters, that mostly work out because they are being played by good and well known actors. I was not too fond of the main character (played by Billy Bob Thornton) of the movie that in my opinion never really was interesting enough. But still, I always like Billy Bob in any movie in any role. Not every characters is used to its potential such as the Frances McDormand one but than on the other hand there also were some characters played by actors that worked out quite surprising, namely Tony Shalhoub who was great. James Gandolfini always was great (as always) in his role and also Scarlett Johansson impressed in a small and early role for her.

I still missed some of the subtle, yet hilarious, Coen brothers humor in this movie. It of course was present but in this case not prominent enough, at least not to my taste. It's the reason why I still see this movie as a bit of a disappointing one from the Coen brothers. This is obviously not their best work but this in no way means that this movie is a totally bad one. Not at all. "The Man Who Wasn't There" is a perfectly pleasant to watch, light, fun and cleverly written movie with some impressive actors, that also truly uplift the movie.

Not the Coen brother's best and most successful experiment but certainly interesting and good enough to watch nevertheless.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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