reached near the end of the year, I had given up hope on a 5 star
calibre movie to appear. Then along comes the new Coen Brothers
film No Country For Old Men, and with it the answer to my
stars Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss, a welder
who - during a ritual deer hunt - comes across the aftermath of
a drug deal gone to hell. Left behind is a satchel containing 2
million dollars which he runs off with. After him is the apathetic
and ruthless hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who plans to get
his man and the money no matter who is in his way. Investigating
their case is aging Texas Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones),
who ponders the descent of the world into chaos and violence.
This is the best Coen Brothers film since 1998's The Big Lewbowski,
and also their best film based on another persons material. In this
instance, it is the acclaimed 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy, which
- although a near word by word adaptation - is enriched with the
Coen's unmistakable style and wit.
The Coen's direction is superb, its chase elements in particular
are a thrilling watch carried out with break neck tension. The use
of no score in the film was a deft move, relying on the power of
silence to increase the creepiness factor felt throughout. Set in
1980, the film is let loose of the wire tapping-cum-satellite surveillance
technologies which are entrenched in any and every post Y2K film
with a chase sequence. Also, a Western motif is ever present throughout
the film thanks to its Texas setting, which was actually shot in
Las Vegas, New Mexico and caught beautifully by long time Coen's
cinematographer Roger Deakins.
The film takes a blunt look at human nature, in particular the downfall
of our species as lamented by characters from generations passed,
especially Sheriff Bell who quietly contemplates where mankind is
headed as he examines various crime scenes left in Chigurh's wake.
Tradition and morals as these characters knew it have quickly eroded
over the years, and have been replaced with greed and self abuse.
With Sheriff Bell struggling to get a grip on the withering of goodness
and decency, Chigurh gains strength as the unrelenting evil that
no one ever sees, but is always present. Llewelyn draws Chigurh's
wrath, thanks to the temptation of greed which would lead to his
The films three lead actors all put on top quality performances.
Josh Brolin - who is having a phenomenal year with turns in American
Gangster and Planet
Terror - puts on a great performance as a 1980's
modern cowboy with a macho swagger, who does not appreciate just
how over his head he really is. Tommy Lee Jones is also great as
the aging Sheriff whose vast experience in law enforcement has brought
him a deep contempt and sadness for humanity.
However, this film truly belongs to Javier Bardem. His Chigruh is
a villain that comes along rarely, an unstoppable force devoid of
emotion and compromise, who contains neither glint of hope in his
eyes, nor any remorse when he disposes his victims with his cattle
gun. There is no winking at the camera, no vanity in his actions
and motives, no charm to seduce his victim's ala Hannibal Lector,
and above all, no child hood drama or other psychosis to explain
his actions. Yet he is all too human, which makes it even scarier.
Frustratingly, Bardem has won or has been nominated in the supporting
actor category by every major Awards and critics group, yet he is
clearly a lead player and should be hailed as such.
Besides an excessive amount of gore and violence, No Country
For Old Men is an absorbing film which will haunt the soul upon
its completion. Look for Javier Bardem to be a front runner at the
upcoming Oscar's. Hopefully it will be in the right category.