Director: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
Running Time: 122 minutes
Here is another great review from Steven.
Let me start by saying that No Country for Old Men is not your typical movie. It is not your typical thriller and it’s not your typical plot setup. Nothing can prepare you for its onslaught of biting reality, in a world where people do get fucked over by the bad guy, in a world where nothing is sacred. It’s a vast, reaching masterpiece by the acclaimed Coen Brothers, (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), and it is by far not only their most mature work, but it will be their masterpiece for all other films to look up to and aspire on all paradigms. Not only on the dramatic level, but No Country breaks ground in cinematography, characterization, sound and storytelling. You have never seen a film quite like it, and you probably never will until you take the plunge into No Country for Old Men.
No Country for Old Men is the twelfth effort from Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and Barton Fink. They’ve adapted the novel by the same name into a film that breaks all boundaries. If you’ve read the book you’ll be happy to hear that it follows almost to the letter, exactly what occurs within. The first thing that No Country does right is that it’s a faithful adaptation, something several films strive for.
The movie is about Llewelyn Moss, Sherriff Ed Tom Bell, and Anton Chigurh, three characters with different agendas, who are all after something different. The film starts with Llewelyn, a Texan Vietnam vet who lives his life like any Texan does. It begins with him finding a stockpile of cash from a heroin deal gone wrong. He takes the cash and runs, with Anton Chigurh a hired hitman from hell, crawls out and seeks to take what is rightfully his. Ed Tom Bell is the catch-up, he attempts to figure everything out before it’s far too late.
The movie isn’t about what happens, it’s about why it happens, it’s about things deeper than the surface. In order to enjoy this movie you need to dig deeper than the surface of things and think about why which characters made the wrong and right decisions. It’s not something you can simply follow casually and hope to understand, it’s a beast that challenges you as much as the on screen characters, and if you do, you will be rewarded for a message deeper than the general populace can comprehend. It’s expertly written and shot, it’s why it won the Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay at this years Academy Awards.
The camerawork is superb, providing sweeping, gritty brutal shots of the American south-west in the 1980’s. There is very little music in this film, only about 12 minutes total for the 122 Minute run time, but what’s here is sound. Not “Bang” “Kazam!” but sounds like you would hear in the situation. A gunshot is heard shuddering throughout the neighborhoods, boots clod, metal clangs, and wood breaks with a nice crisp. The sound may seem like something that shouldn’t be given such a priority, but it helps build the tension and suspense that’s required for a story such as this.
Josh Brolin does a faithful job with Llewelyn, playing the American everyman who makes the choices that you might make given the circumstances. Tommy Lee Jones is a natural fit for Ed Tom Bell, and he does it with gusto. Sorry, but the real star of the show is Javier Bardem in his now iconic role as one of the most intimidating, ruthless, and now infamously parodied Movie Villains of All Time, Anton Chigurh. Anton is meant to be a figure for Death incarnate, his tone of voice, to the way he walks exhudes darkness. He is a sociopath that only believes in fate, and decides on the flip of a coin. His performance as Anton nailed him the first Acting Oscar given to someone from Spain, and with good reason. He is simply terrifying, everytime he appears you fear for your life, as well as the innocent animals, women, children, men and gods that are present in the room. He has a creed, but one that doesn’t allow him to kill on the level of other gung-ho icons of the past. He has a method; he uses it, and lives it to the finest degree.
Overall, No Country for Old Men is a stunning, visceral masterpiece, and if you don’t enjoy it than you may not be mature enough to embrace the world for what it is, because this should be the way films are made.