The Coen Brothers have a long history of great films. I’ve been a fan of their’s for many years and went into this one with high expectations. I try not to do that with many film makers, but they usually don’t disappoint me, and they didn’t here. Though this film is missing some of their usual quirkiness and oddball characters, it is distinctly their own. “No Country for Old Men” is a taut and engaging thriller that few other film makers could pull off as well. Actually, I am at a loss for anyone that could have done a better job with this material. At first I was a little worried that this would play out like “A Simple Plan” in Texas, but my fears were for naught. Despite a similar set-up (tons of drug money gets found by unsuspecting hunter in the middle of nowhere) they took vastly divergent paths. Though “A Simple Plan” is a great film, it does not have as much going on beneath the surface as “No Country…”
If you just look at the facade of the film you will see a well done and suspenseful crime drama about a welder named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who, while out hunting in the great wide-open of Texas, stumbles upon the scene of a drug deal gone very, very bad. He walks away with what is clearly well over a million dollars, and sure enough somebody comes looking for it. That somebody is some Bad-Ass Sumbitch played by Oscar Nominee Javier Bardem, and man is he creepy. The rest of the movie finds (for lack of a better word) our hero on the run from this methodical , remorseless hit-man and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) trying his damnedest to help Llewelyn and his poor wife out of this mess. Woody Harrelson has a great turn as a rival hit-man and Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting) was endearing as Llewelyn’s suffering wife.
Every actor here brought their A-Game. Brolin is a very capable leading man and reminded me of Kurt Russell in his prime without the snarkyness of Snake Plissken (can’t win ‘em all). Tommy Lee Jones was truly touching and, dare I say it, beautiful in his performance. His compassion and humanity are really the driving force behind the whole story. Javier Bardem is one of the creepiest guys I’ve seen in a long time, and to me, the closest thing to a “Coen Brothers character” in here. He is scary, he is intimidating, he is almost supernatural and the closest thing to quirky that “No Country…” has to offer. For the love of God, just call heads or tails, don’t irritate the man. You can’t help but feel for Moss’ wife, Ms MacDonald. She also gets points for a great Texas accent and not showing even a hint of her real Scottish one. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was her until the end credits.
Everything about this film was executed beautifully. The Coen’s built a true empathy for the characters which gave the film real suspense. And I don’t mean shitty modern suspense where the audience is just waiting and wondering what loud noise is going to make them jump out of their seat. This was the kind of suspense the reels you in, strings you along and makes you actually worry for this person you are watching, that you’ve become attached to. They use stillness and quiet to achieve far greater results than could ever be accomplished with smash cuts and loud noises. This is the kind of film making that makes you feel like you’re there, but glad that you aren’t. And believe me, you don’t ever want to be in a room with Javier Barem’s character. Especially not if he is carrying a canister of compressed air.
The gorgeous cinematography gives us a feeling of desolation, loneliness, and emptiness from the first few minutes. It adeptly sets the scene for the rest of the ride and it is a lonely, desperate and thrilling one with some big shocks along the way. The pacing of this movies was so good, I had no clue how long it was when it was over. Turns out, it’s just over two hours, but it is a very quick two hours. Like I said above, there is much more to this movie than what you see on the surface. There is a sobering allegory here about the ever changing state of America (and probably the world as a whole). There will come a time in all of our lives where we have been left behind. Left behind by the next generation, by our country and by the world. “No Country for Old Men” beautifully illustrates the breakdown that every generation sees in society when they are no longer welcome.
At least that’s what I’m getting out of it right now. I might have to see it a few times and see if that changes. I will gladly watch it again