O Brother Where Art Thou

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Comedy, Adventure, Crime, Music
  • Actors: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson

Ulysses Everett McGill, known as Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) escape from a chain gang and set out to retrieve the $1.2 million in treasure that Everett claims to have stolen from an armored car and buried before his incarceration. They have only four days to find it before the valley in which it is hidden will be flooded to create Arkabutla Lake as part of a new hydroelectric project. Early on in their escape, they encounter a blind man traveling on a manual railroad car. They hitch a ride, and he foretells their futures, similar to the oracle of Homer’s Odyssey.

The group sets out for the treasure, and when they pass a congregation on the banks of a river, Pete and Delmar are enticed by the idea of baptism. As the journey continues, they travel briefly with a young guitarist named Tommy Johnson (a character with similarities to blues guitarists Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson, played by real-life blues musician Chris Thomas King). When asked why he was at a crossroad in the middle of nowhere, he reveals that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the guitar. Tommy describes the devil as being “White, white as you folks… with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He loves to travel around with a mean old hound.” This description happens to match the policeman who is pursuing the trio.

The group sets out to retrieve the ring, which is at a cabin in the valley that Everett originally claimed to have hidden the treasure in. When they arrive, the police order their arrest and hanging. Everett protests that they had been pardoned on the radio, but the leader of the police force tells them that it is of no consequence, since the law is only a human institution, plus they have no radio. The guys begin to despair while Everett improvises a prayer to be saved. Suddenly, the valley is flooded and they are saved from hanging. Tommy finds the ring in a desk that he is floating on in the new lake, and they return to town. However, when Everett presents the ring to Penny, she tells him it is the wrong one and demands that he get her ring back. As Everett protests the futility of trying to find it at the bottom of the lake, the blind prophet the trio met earlier rolls by on his railway handcar, ending the film.

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