122 Min | Crime – Drama – Thriller | November 2007
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin
No Country for Old Men Review: There’s very little “good” in No Country for Old Men beyond the mesmerizing acting and viciously dark screenplay. Instead, the unholy trinity of temptation, cynicism and pure, dark, evil take center stage in this modern western directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. Based on the 2003 novel by Cormac McCarthy, the movie unfolds in the dusty Texas borderlands as hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the remnants of a desert drug deal gone bad, complete with a case containing two million dollars. Succumbing to temptation, Moss makes off with the money setting in motion a chain of events that leaves a trail of blood spattered carnage across the State as he is pursued by the ruthless, coin tossing hit man Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) among whose killing weapons of choice is a pneumatic air gun.
Bearing little in common with pretty much any previous Coen film with the possible exception of Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men is a dark, bleak, ode to the baser elements of the human soul, and a spit in the eye to the noble ones as well. With a structural trademark hinging upon breaking the conventional norms of predictability, No Country is a movie that will unsettle you at successive turns – in the way deaths are dealt out, by its palpable tension that can almost be cut with a knife, and its periodic deviations from the narrative norm – the latter likely the only Coen brothers “quirk” for which their movies are renown. Switching back and forth between the game of cat and mouse being played out by Moss and Chigurh and the investigation of unfolding events by cynical aging Texas Sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the Coens weave a web of dangled threads that one can’t help but expect will be neatly tied together at story’s end, only to tie them up in ways that buck the storytelling norm and manage to be both unsatisfying and true to their nature at the same time.
Unforgettable among this tableau is Bardem’s Chigurh. The Spanish actor who has also appeared in Love in the Time of Cholera and Goya’s Ghosts evokes the most amazing presence of a ruthless killer with his own twisted adherence to a bizarre code of ethics that nothing short of witnessing his performance can do it justice. Sadly, however, justice is one of the few items in abundance in No Country for Old Men. And yet, as unhappy as I am that the Coen’s screenplay defiantly refuses to cater to the audience’s inherent desire for satisfaction, I grudgingly have to admire them for opting for the unpredictable. Consider No Country for Old Men akin to one big coin toss – will it be heads or tales? Call it – you’ve been calling it your entire life.