Review: No Country For Old Men

In 1996 Ethan and Joel Coen reinvented film with their chilly masterpiece “Fargo.” The film went on to win an Oscar for screenwriting for both of them and brought them instant fame and recognition. Their newest tale, “No Country For Old Men” was one of the most anticipated films of the year for a few reasons. The brothers recently found themselves with a slew of disastrously bad movies (“The Ladykillers”, “Intolerable Cruelty”) and the critical community could not wait for a return to form. With this addition to their resume, the Coen Brothers have been reinstated as a powerful force in Hollywood and have a chance to take home the big prize at this year’s Academy Awards.

The film is a complex murder mystery thriller adapted brilliantly from Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel. Josh Brolin leads the cast as Llewellyn Moss, a man who finds himself in a very dangerous situation after finding a large sum of money in the desert. The “rightful” owners of the cash employ the services of Anton Chigurh (played by the magnificent Javier Bardem) who takes the job into his own hands to get the money. Along the way we meet the beleaguered albeit lazy Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and Moss’ horrified wife Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald).

The great thing about this movie is the fact that every piece of it is near perfection. From the incredible landscapes brought to us from the Coens’ favorite cinematographer Roger Deakins, to the multitude of unwaveringly spectacular performances, to the sharp script, to the hauntingly real fear brought to the audience from Bardem’s character, this movie has it all. One could say it’s too perfect, but anybody who sits through the whole movie can’t disregard how incredible the experience is.

It should be noted that Javier Bardem has given us one of the most intense and scary performances of all time. Every horror legend from Michael Myers to Freddy Krueger should take lessons from Anton Chigurh. This is a man who has no qualms about who or why he kills. At many points in the film it feels like he’s just fulfilling a thirst for blood, rather than killing for purpose. His character seems completely unreal, but Bardem’s ability to bring a slight humanity to him makes him feel very real and thus twice as scary.

The other three leads also turn in terrific performances. Josh Brolin finally shows a lot of movie star potential. Moss goes through many changes, and Brolin seems to just ease his way into the character’s mind. Tommy Lee Jones has most certainly gotten better with age. His character is the lone beacon of hope for any happiness in the movie, something that is set up at the very beginning with a terrific prologue narration. Finally, the gorgeous Kelly MacDonald does a wonderful job. She doesn’t have a lot of screen time but she is still quite memorable. She appears in one of the last scenes of the movie and, as she is being interrogated by Chigurh, her fright is very obvious but she still keeps her character strong.

The Coen Brothers have a knack for telling these slow burning tales that seem very well planned and always well cast. The use of relatively unknowns seems to always work for them, and that’s probably the key to their success. Some of their other films seemed to rely on the star power of the actors rather than real talent. It will be interesting to see what future projects these two have on their plates. With “Fargo”, they changed the way we watch movies. With “No Country For Old Men” they changed the way we see them. We’ll definitely be seeing these two at the Oscars this year, and hopefully they can deliver such narrative strong films like this in the future.

Grade: A

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Review: No Country For Old Men

  1. Nikzad

    I saw this for the second time two nights ago at AMC at Framingham. I bought a children’s ticket as usual, but got busted for the first time. Some high-school chick with braces giving me shit. They made me go to guest services and pay the difference. It was a pain in the ass but totally worth it to see this film again. I think the fact that there was no music in the film (except for one instance) made all of the eerie silences and stare-downs of Anton that much more powerful. I read a review in Rolling Stone that said it had an ending that only smart people could figure out. At the end of the movie two nights ago, some dick yelled “That sucked.” I thought of the article and didn’t feel the need to kick him in the face. Great review; I’ve seen this one, so I can comment on it.

  2. Josh

    I love people… I’ve never said anything in the theater but I got close with Spider-man 3… very close.

    I totally forgot about the lack of music. I only really noticed it during the credits, which added a whole new level of creepiness.

  3. Sean

    I loved this movie. This movie is the ultimate anti-western. The bad guy won, the good guy gets killed, his woman dies and the cowboy gives up. The bleek barren landscape of south Texas is the perfect setting. The lack of music gives the entire film a very eerie feeling that I loved. I can wait for this to come out of DVD.

    Their was only on thing I had a problem with. I had to watch this movie in a theater filled with jackass and dip-shits. While I was enjoy the film, the people behind me keep talking about how they don’t get it. When the film ended they keep going on and on about how this film sucked. I hate people.

  4. Josh

    I went and saw this in Waltham, and sat in the front row in a very small theater. That made the experience perfect, and I really suggest it. The people who go to Waltham tend to be a lot more polite.

    Also, I don’t necessarily think that his wife died in the film… but its up to your perception.

  5. Matt M.

    i’ve seen this movie twice. once at school and once with nikzad who can attest to the fact that the second time i saw it i fell asleep. this is a fantastic movie but it must be recognized that its pure and stark nature really can bore the shit out of you when you know whats going to happen. the coen brothers are fantastic and though i disagree about intolerable cruelty which i loved i think that this is at least a return to their fargo, blood simple, and miller’s crossing days of unapologetically violent noir type films. honestly though i recognize that the emotionalessness of everything around them and inside Chirgurh was a theme, i really could have used some music, just any music. seeing this a second time makes you appreciate music in other films it honestly couldve kept me awake.
    its deserving of a few oscars but i dont know if its the film of the year. I still need to see Juno and the Diving Bell and the Butterfly but right now i’d say that mine is either Ratatouille, which ill comment on in a minute or Michael Clayton, a hugely underrated film i had to go see myself.
    … michael clayton, intolerable cruelty… maybe i just like george clooney too much…

  6. Josh

    I don’t think “No Country” is the best film of the year, but it may walk away with the prize. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Last year I was glad “The Departed” won even though my favorite film of the year was “Little Miss Sunshine.” Had that film won, it wouldn’t have been as cool… it would have lost its luster.

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