Darlings of the critics, mystifiers of the masses, the Coens are often accused of a surfeit of style, poverty of soul. Their rambling ninth feature requires patience, but embrace the oddness and it's arguably their best film yet.
Superficially a homage to classic noir filtered through the brothers' uniquely skewed humour and sense of the absurd, it transcends pastiche to tackle issues of identity, guilt and redemption: this is James M Cain forged with Albert Camus; Dostoevsky for Hitchcock fans. Billy Bob Thornton is astounding as chain-smoking barber Ed Crane, drawn into blackmail and murder in 1949 Santa Rosa after discovering wife Frances McDormand's infidelity with James Gandolfini's garrulous businessman. Beautifully shot in black-and-white, this is an emotionally resonant, existentialist masterpiece. And bloody funny with it.