QUICK REVIEW: The Man Who Wasn't There

A masterpiece of the Neo-noir genre.

Sep 10, 2019
Dimitris Passas

This is one of the few times that I feel really glad to write an outstanding review for a classic movie or book. The Man Who Wasn't There is, in my personal opinion, Joel and Ethan Coen's best film to date, a real cornerstone of the popular, though not clearly defined, Neo-noir genre. The movie has a stellar cast in both protagonistic and supporting roles, and Billy Bob Thornton gives, perhaps, his best performance ever on screen.

Thornton plays Ed Crane, a barber who is married to Doris (Frances McDormand) an unfaithful and shady spouse, a man of few words and a rather pessimistic worldview who embarks on a perilous journey when he decides to blackmail a friend of his, "Big" Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini) in order to get money for his new business. As always, things go the wrong way for our hero and the plot begins to unfold in a rather slow, nevertheless fitting pace, while the story is narrated through Ed's point of view with heavy use of voice-overs. I generally detest voice-overs as I believe that the only thing they offer is easy exposition, but in this case, the Coen brothers use it masterfully, in a way reminiscent of many colossal noir films of the 40s and 50s. Another thing pointing in this direction is the fact that the movie is shot in black and white. Even the use of music brings the viewer back in the golden age of American productions in that era.

I have to struggle to find a film closer to the Neo-noir category and I firmly believe that The Man Who Wasn't There will become a classic in the years to come. The dialogues are fascinating and truly well-written, another proof of the writers'/directors' enormous amount of talent, while the finale acts as the most appropriate denouement for the story. This is a movie for all fervent moviegoers, irrespective of genre preferences, and the perfect choice for your next watch. 5/5 stars with all my heart!


The Man Who Wasn't There
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
116 min

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