Miller’s Crossing (Coen, Coen, 1990)

To be completely honest, this is in my Top 10 of all time. Miller’s Crossing represents everything I long for in a film – fascinating characters, perfectly placed camera movement, haunting music, brutal and decisive action, all working together to create a rhythmic, seamless cinematic entity specific to a time and space. It’s a gangster film, a story of friendship, and of deception, but it’s also disturbed and obsessed with personal failure in each of these realms of existence. The theme of failure haunts every Coen Brothers films, from Blood Simple, to Fargo, to The Man Who Wasn’t There, and the constant presence of such a feeling infects them down to their very core. Miller’s Crossing seems to be somewhat of an oddity though, in that it doesn’t rely on buffoonery, or slapstick, or irony to convey these devastating moments of decision. The Coen Brothers give us faces, hats, guns, offscreen violence, and love, all based within human sacrifice and the subversion of honor in the name of friendship. In a world this dirty, it turns out friendship cannot be bought, sold, or bartered with, just advanced and destroyed. Any middle ground results in death. The Coen’s have never made a better film, nor are they likely to transcend their patented brand of irony and create another mature masterwork like it ever again. We can only hope.

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