In Ed Crane, the Brothers Coen have given Billy Bob Thornton his most forgettable character. Fortunately, that's a good thing. Ed is the title character/narrator, and though he's present in just about every scene of the movie, he doesn't say much, doesn't seem to have much of an opinion on anything, and doesn't seem to have much in the way of ambition. People don't remember his name. He's living his life on autopilot, not really doing or feeling anything, just moving from day to day as a small-town barber in 1949 Santa Rosa, California. That is, until a business opportunity presents itself, and Ed matter-of-factly goes about raising $10,000 to buy in, and sets off a chain of events containing equal amounts tragedy and absurdity. First - this is a very funny movie. Much humor is mined from how Ed sort of stands detached from the other characters, impassively watching them with an unchanging, unblinking expression as a cigerette hangs limply from his mouth. Things that would cause other people to panic simply don't get a rise out of him. A certain amount of energy is provided by Tony Shaloub's character, Freddy Riedenschneider. (You have to love those great Coen names) A high-priced attorney, Freddy considers who committed the crimes to be absolutely irrelevent to his defense. He has great screwball-comedy dialog, including a gem of a speech on how the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle relates to a murder trial. The movie is also beautiful to look at. Dennis Gassner and Chris Gorak should really be noted for their Production Design and Art Direction, respectively; and if Roger Deakins doesn't win an Oscar for his magnificent black-and-white cinematography... Well, heads will roll. Everything fits together, with lots of stark, bare sets and shadows for Ed to melt into. The filmmakers aren't going for period realism here; instead, they acheive a sort of surrealism, a disconnect from the real world, although its symbols are familiar from 60 years of film noir. Great supporting performances about. I've already mentioned Tony Shaloub, who is a real treasure, but there are good turns from Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Jon Polito, and Michael Badalucco. Scarlett Johansson has been in a couple other pretty good movies this year (Ghost World and An American Rhapsondy), but this is probably her best role of the three, as a teenager whose piano playing catches Ed's ear and actually makes him feel something. If there's a message to The Man Who Wasn't There, it's that no-one is in control of their own lives (the Spoiler:flying saucer will be too much for some audience members, but it symbolizes this perfectly); you can either just ride passively along like Ed or find joy in it like his brother-in-law Frank (Baladucco). The Man Who Wasn't There is one of the best movies of the year; don't miss it.