Greed and violence fuel a tragic, fateful tale in the Coen Brothers’ latest film: No Country for Old Men, originally a novel by Cormac McCarthy. If you’ve read the book and if you’ve seen a Coen Brothers’ movie before (i.e. Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona), then you know this is a worthy marriage of extremely talented artists.
This film noir is carried by dialogue accentuated with subtle, situational humor. It is the same formula that won two Oscars for Ethan and Joel Coen in 1996 with Fargo.
It has been three years since the Coens shined on the big screen with The Ladykillers, a comedy loaded with crafty dialogue reminiscent of their previous projects like O Brother, Where Art Thou?
By adding creepiness to the humor, the Coen Brothers came up with a recipe that makes No Country for Old Men their best work yet.
With success stewing in a kettle, it is a trinity that lifts this movie up to the next level – a quiet cowboy, an emotionless killer and a sheriff who has seen better days.
Josh Brolin delivers a performance worthy of accolades. He is cast as Llewelyn Moss, a rough, gruff cowboy who welds metal while his wife stays at home. He is not much for conversation, which suits the movie well, since he spends most of his time alone. One day, he goes out to hunt deer in the backyards of Texas. What he discovers makes the hunter become the hunted.
He finds fresh corpses, dead pit bulls and trucks with bullet holes in them. Further searching leads him to find a satchel full of money. He deduces that a drug deal has gone wrong. He knows someone will come for the money but he takes it anyway.
Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, an assassin sent to recover the money who will murder anyone to get it. His facial expression is constant. He remains distant even when he shoots a hole into someone’s skull. Just when you think you know what he is going to do, he surprises you, which adds to his mysterious demeanor.
He chases Moss across Texas and into Mexico, but Moss’s wits keep him one step ahead of Chigurh. Moss must fight for his life as bullets fly and blood spills. In the meantime, an old sheriff follows the trail of their cat-and-mouse game.
Tommy Lee Jones acts casual as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. His weathered face blends in with the Texas landscape, a depiction of a tired old man. He remembers the good ol’ days when he could keep up with the criminals. As he follows the bloodshed, he admits to being outmatched. Today’s crimes are too horrible and unpredictable. He wants to retire, which sums up the cynical tone of the movie.
This is not a happy film. In fact, it is blatantly honest and negative. The final scene is not a typical Hollywood ending and many will be upset with it. Initially I was, but then I remembered everything I had seen earlier and I was amazed.
I found myself thinking about previous scenes and I admit the Coen Brothers have messed with my mind. Were there any hidden meanings? They purposely leave out parts of the story, making me ponder over what I had seen. I watched brilliant acting and armrest-clinching directing. I witnessed a masterpiece.
Running Time: 122 minutes