Review 33: No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen Brothers have made some great movies. Fargo, O’ Brother Where Art Thou, True Grit, and The Big Lebowski. No Country for Old Men, which has 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, won 4 Oscars in 2008 including best picture and best actor in a supporting role for Javier Bardem and I managed to never getting around to watch it. This film isn’t technically a western, but is set in Texas in 1980 and has a bit of a western vibe to it.
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles into wealth at the scene of a drug deal gone wrong and is subsequently pursued by Anton Chigurh (Bardem). Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who is at the end of his career, is having a hard time getting his head around the scene of the drug deal and feels out of place in this modern, violent world. The film follows all three men and their different but intertwined journeys from this point forward.
I really loved all three performances. Anton Chigurh is a truly great and terrifying villain. Bardem’s opening scene in the film sets the tone of the insanity and ferocity that Anton will have throughout the film in a big and memorable way. Josh Brolin is working his way onto my favorite actor list. I’ve seen him a lot lately and I definitely enjoy his roles in the films I have seen. Tommy Lee Jones is basically Tommy Lee Jones, but he is always compelling enough to me that I sympathize to him. I feel for his character and what he is going through, and I think it may even reflect his actually point of view of the films that are being made today.
I’m going to add spoilers to this review because the movie is 8-years-old so I feel it’s not too big a deal. If you’ve not seen this you may want to skip to the last paragraph at this point. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** The film ends seeing Anton in a horrible car accident that was very telegraphed, but shot differently than expected that still managed to shock me. Anton is badly injured with a bone sticking out of his arm, but he still walks away and seems to escape. Tommy Lee Jones ends sitting at home, seeming unhappy about his retirement, but contemplative on a dream. Ultimately, this film feels like I need to watch it a few more times to get all of the subtle elements that the Coen’s and possibly Cormac McCarthy embedded into the story and the characters.
The story seems to be three different sets of morals. The clearly good is Sheriff Bell, the clearly bad is Anton Chigurh, and the gray area is Moss. Moss makes decisions that may seem immoral, but later often does the right thing although it is often too late. Like when he decides to bring the man in the truck water early in the film, which is what truly sends people in his direction. Even the clear villain of the movie has a strict set of rules that he appears to operate under, but those rules are likely self-imposed. Sheriff Bell is so good that he is left almost shell shocked by the evil he is being exposed to. It’s a very compelling narrative to say the least.
The cinematography of the film is incredible for sure. The opening killing of a police officer by Anton is a great example of the quality that the film with implement. The angles and rotation slowly coming from the ceiling towards the prone Anton replicates the craziness that is seen in the eyes of the man as he takes another man’s life. It’s not remorse or compassion that is seen, but almost a euphoric bliss overtakes him as the life leaves the officer. It’s horrifying and an impactful introduction to the villain that will stalk our antagonist.
This film may be working its way into my top ten. It’s one I definitely want to show other people and talk about with others. It’s likely going to be watched a few more times, probably even this year as I was so enthralled. I give No Country for Old Men 10 out of 10 coin flips.