No Country For Old Men

 
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written by:Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
Released: December 26, 2007
Grade: A

Ethan and Joel Coen have made some incredible films.  They’ve made my top 10 directors list for as long as I’ve been publishing it on my website.  Their works include Fargo, The Big Lebowski and Intolerable CrueltyNo Country For Old Men is their latest creation and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year.  There’s still a month till the nominations but it looks a lock to be a best picture nominee at the Oscars.

Ah, but don’t be fooled.  This film isn’t for everyone.  Here’s just a splattering of comments from the Internet Movie Database website – “this is easily the worst film I’ve seen this year”, “this movie is just horrible”, “anyone that thinks this movie is clever or deep is certifiably insane”, “I actually saw people angrily walking to get a refund”, “this movie is esoteric garbage”, and “I swear Mortal Kombat was better than this.”

My point is that you’ll either love it or hate it.  My job is to help you work out which category you fit into before you think about seeing it.

Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) is an ordinary man who is hunting animals in a Texas desert.  Looking down from atop a small cliff, he spots an array of cars with dead bodies strewn everywhere.  He goes in for a closer look.  A shoot out has taken place.  There appear to be no survivors.  A stash of drugs has been left on the back of a ute and there’s a large suitcase containing $2m in cash.  Llewelyn thinks for a moment and decides to take the money.  He stashes it underneath the caravan in which he and his wife (Macdonald) live.

It’s a decision he will regret.  The hunter will become the hunted.  With 24 hours, he realises that there are some very nasty people who want that money for themselves and unfortunately, he’s left a trail.  Llewelyn tells his wife to hide at her mother’s and then he hits the open road, looking for somewhere to lay low.

Hot on his tail is a hired assassin with the strange name of Anton Chigurh (Bardem).  He has been hired by some powerful people to get the money back.  Anton is one of the scariest bad guys I’ve ever seen a film.  His mere presence makes everyone around him feel uncomfortable.  I speak of the people in the movie… and those sitting in the cinema audience!  There’s a great scene where he speaks to the owner of a service station in the search for information.  He is pure evil.

Caught up in the story is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones), an experienced police officer is trying to do what is right.  He realises the danger that Llewelyn is in and is hoping to find him before the bad guys do.  As the body count rises, Tom finds himself questioning humanity.  How is it that these people have such little regard for human life?

No Country For Old Men is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (All The Pretty Horses).  I haven’t read the novel but I believe it’s a very faithful adaptation.  The ending (which will leave some people unfulfilled) is exactly how the book ends.  What I adored most about the material were the terrific one-liners.  Tommy Lee Jones gets most of them in what is one of his greatest performances.  Every time he opens his mouth, you know that an intelligent, insightful comment will be made.

Another superb quality of the film is its casting.  The main actors are all wonderful but I want to focus on the supporting cast.  I don’t where the Coen brothers find these people.  They may only be on screen for a few minutes but they make those few minutes unforgettable.  I speak of the caravan park manager, the boot salesman, the hotel clerk...

With all these superlatives, you might be wondering why some people haven’t liked the film?  The answer is simple – it doesn’t necessarily give you what you want.  It doesn’t play out like a normal Hollywood thriller where everything is wrapped up nice and neatly.  You have been warned in that regard.

In many ways, No Country For Old Men reminded me of Fargo.  They explore similar themes in a similar setting.   Oh, and there’s one more thing they have in common – they’re both brilliant.